The Victorian Government’s plans for Federation Square in Melbourne have run into yet another obstacle with a new community group launching a fresh campaign to oppose the building of an Apple megastore in the popular public space.

The state government had signed an agreement with the global tech giant in December last to build the first flagship Apple store in the southern hemisphere at Federation Square.

According to the agreement, the existing Yarra Building would be demolished and replaced by the new Apple store, which will take up less space. The proposed project will create almost 500sqm of additional public space and allow better access to the Yarra River.

However, there is considerable anger within the local community about the privatisation of public space without consultation. In addition to several citizen-driven petitions doing the rounds, the state Greens have moved a motion in Parliament to revoke the planning approval given for the store. The City of Melbourne council will also lobby upper house members to support the Greens’ motion.

Three organisations have now come together to form a grassroots community group called ‘Citizens for Melbourne’ to protest the establishment of the Apple store at Federation Square.

Citizens for Melbourne is an association of passionate citizens founded to advocate for quality public spaces in the city and its suburbs. Led by Hootville Communications founder Brett de Hoedt, OpenHAUS director Tania Davidge, and urbanist and researcher James Lesh, the group’s first campaign ‘Our City, Our Square’ has called for the relocation of the store from the public square.

Online campaigns and protests will form the thrust of the movement with the non-political group also planning to lobby with politicians across the spectrum.

The objective of Citizens for Melbourne is to bring disparate groups together, tap into the massive public resentment over the lack of transparency, and bring combined pressure on the government in an election year.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews believes the Apple store would be good for the city as well as for Federation Square’s commercial prospects, explaining that the store has a small footprint, will open up access to the river, and create employment opportunities in the short term on construction activity as well as in an ongoing way.