Myer Lonsdale is closing
Retail icon Myer announced a few weeks ago that it will close its Lonsdale Street building which forms one half of the massive Myer Emporium complex in Melbourne’s city centre. Whilst this closure may be necessary for the future viability of the department store, I am disappointed that this portion of the emporium will be shut down and redeveloped.
Myer’s Lonsdale Street building.
The Myer Emporium spans two city blocks and consists of no less than 10 buildings, constructed in stages between 1914 and 1933 and integrated into a single store. The Lonsdale Street store is an older part of the Myer Emporium, having been constructed in 1925. It is linked by a sky bridge to the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre on the north and the Bourke Street store to the south.
This unique history of constructing or aquiring buildings in various stages has led to the creation of a store that is filled with ramps, stairwells and oddly sized floorspaces. Certain selected parts of the buildings have been refurbished at various stages so that no two parts of the store look alike anymore, even in the same building!
A relatively well-preserved section in Myer’s shabby Lonsdale Street store.
This aside, Myer’s flagship Melbourne store has been allowed to disintegrate into an awful condition. The carpets are faded and worn, even torn in places. The linoleum is shabby and scratched and many of the interesting architectual features have been concealed by ugly ceiling tiles or false walls. Furthermore, the arrangement of departments is just absurd in places. At minimum, the whole place could do with a lick of paint.
Yet Myer Melbourne also has a distinct charm about it. That very arrangement of variously sized spaces and different architectual styles make it a really interesting place to visit. Ornate plasterwork and columns in the Adamesque and Art Deco styles can still be seen in parts of both the Lonsdale and Bourke Street buildings. And whilst I am not generally interesting in shopping as a recreation, I always enjoy the walk through Myer’s endless array of departments as I make my way along Melbourne’s greatest shortcut.
Ornate Adam-style plasterwork can still be seen in some parts of the Lonsdale Street store,
hinting at the grandeur that the store would have once had.
Until recently, Myer had been suffering major financial problems and was operating at a loss. Without a much-neeeded injection of capital, the store was allowed to become progressively shabbier. Yet one cannot help but wonder if part of the financial losses were not due to the poor state of the flagship store in the first instance?
Regardless of the cause, I was hoping that the new owners of Myer would have the Lonsdale and Bourke Street stores refurbished and preferably restored, where appropriate. Instead, Lonsdale will be closed and the store will be condensed into Bourke.
Myer plans to spend $40 million on refurbishing the Bourke Street store, but this will not go far. Whilst a minor cosmetic change will improve the appearance of the store, the building needs more work than this money can provide for.
The Myer Restaurant in the Lonsdale Street store.
There is no doubt that the closure of the Lonsdale Street store and the relocation of all departments will do wonders for business. It will create a more modern shopping atmosphere that will appeal to customers.
But I also feel that part of the experience of shopping at Myer will be lost. I will miss the long journey from one end of Myer to the other, going up and down the ramps and steps on my way. I’ll miss looking out at the passing shoppers from the cafe at the Myer Food Hall, or dining in the Myer Restaurant. Or searching for menswear between the nut and the cake departments! I’ll also miss the skybridge walk across Little Bourke Street, or trying to find the ‘down’ escalator when all I can find are ones going ‘up’.
The Myer Food Hall on the ground floor of the Lonsdale Street store.
Thankfully the Lonsdale Street store is heritage-listed, so the new owners will have to preserve the historical architectural features of the building. They may even restore the building in parts. But without Myer in it, it just won’t be the same.