Locals fight to keep ‘sacred’ Preston market

Jim Katsaros with his wife Athina Katsaros. Photo Jennifer Pittorino.
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Fans of Preston Market are continuing to fight Darebin Council’s decision to relocate the historic market and allow development on the site with no height limits. Jennifer Pittorino reports.

The decision to move and rebuild the “sacred” and historic Preston Market is a big mistake, supporters say.

Darebin Cr Gaetano Greco said the market was the heart and soul of Darebin City and should remain. 

Shifting it would mean “killing the sacredness” of the market, which could not be reconstructed overnight, he said.

Darebin city Council decided on May 28 both to move the market and to reject a proposed 10-12 storey height limit across the site.

Preston market stall-holders Jim Katsaros and his wife Athina, who have owned the Greek Athina Deli for 10 years, strongly supported retaining the current market.

“Everybody loves the market – everybody has lunch and shop its lovely,” Mr Katsaros said.

“People don’t want another Northland, they want a community market.

“If the place closes down, we’re all going to lose our livelihood and everything we’ve put in in the last 10 years.”

He said Cr Greco had been “the voice” of the Preston Market for the past 15 years.

The Preston market. Photo theprestonmarket.com

The council voted five to three in favour of relocation.

Cr Greco said Darebin Council “hasn’t properly represented the community’s concerns” on the market.

“The market represents a microcosm of diversity of the City of Darebin and its working-class culture, which the three council members value,” Cr Greco said.

Cr Greco and fellow councillors Lina Messina and Julie Williams have voted several times to keep the Preston Market in its original position, by requesting Heritage Overlay.

Councillors Susanne Newton, Trent McCarthy, Steph Amir, Kim Le Cerf and Mayor Susan Rennie all rejected Cr Greco’s motion to keep the market where it is.

Cr Rennie said the market was “old and outdated”, and that the council’s decisions had been made to ensure a market remained.

“What he proposed was poorly thought out, and counter to expert advice which was received,” she said.

Cr Greco said the essence of the market was not transferrable. 

“The market is based on the vibes, the atmosphere, the smells – these are all intangible, social, cultural elements that are associated with the building,” he said.

“You can’t put those in a glass bottle and hope to recreate them in a new space.”

According to the Preston Market Heritage Report, the market is second only to the major Victorian landmark Queen Victoria Market, pulling in 80,000 visitors per week, Cr Greco said.

A petition started on change.org is calling for the “the market to stay where it is and how it is!” It has more than 1700 signatures.