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Apple plans for Fed Square were nearly complete in mid-2016

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Apple’s plan for a “flagship” store at Federation Square, to be created by demolishing one of the square’s original buildings, was largely complete almost two years ago, a confidential government report given to The Age shows.

The report, drawings from mid-2016 and undated pictures of an architectural model of the proposed building show a largely unchanged project from designs released by the Andrews government at Christmas.

A design review of the project from May 2016, marked confidential and written by the Victorian Government Architect, indicates overwhelming support for the plan then.

It also flags an intention to involve one of the original architects of Federation Square, Donald Bates, who is said to be likely to “bring invaluable, intelligent and positive critique to the project”.

Mr Bates was later brought on board to support the project, and was a key reason some within the Andrews government lent the Apple plan their support.

The designs for landscaping around the Apple building have changed markedly since the plans in the documents were produced in 2016, to better link Federation Square to the Yarra.

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A community campaign to stop the plan to demolish Federation Square's original Yarra Building to make way for an Apple store will be launched on Tuesday, ahead of a sold-out public forum on the project on Tuesday night. The forum is being held at Federation Square.

The Citizens for Melbourne community group will launch its "Our City, Our Square" campaign on Tuesday, in a bid to stop the Andrews government’s plan to demolish part of Federation Square for the Apple megastore.

In December, Tourism Minister John Eren announced the Apple store in Federation Square. The Age first revealed plans were afoot for the store in November 2016, but the government would not confirm the proposal existed until last year's announcement it was proceeding.

The Citizens for Melbourne group argues Federation Square should not be changed to suit the needs of a private corporation.

“We think the government has completely misread public sentiment,” said the group’s Tania Davidge. “People are outraged at this blatant privatisation of our premier civic space.”

Melbourne City Council is opposed to the project, and the Greens are set to introduce a revocation motion in the Victorian Parliament’s upper house. It would overturn an amendment for the project approved by Planning Minister Richard Wynne.

In January, The Age revealed that three senior ministers - including Mr Wynne - argued against approving the Apple store redevelopment in a heated cabinet debate.

But they were overruled and Mr Wynne altered the planning scheme to make way for the project.

Federation Square is one of Melbourne's top tourists attractions with more than 10 million people visiting each year. But it has not made a profit since opening in 2002.

Apple – which on Monday had a market value of $US793 billion ($1013 billion) – raked in $7.57 billion in Australian sales last financial year.

It paid a dividend of almost $222 million to its parent, made a profit of just $3.67 million, and paid $128.2 million in income tax.

Opposition planning spokesman David Davis said that there had been a failure to consult with the community and the city council on the project, and this had led to the current backlash against it.

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