Little Saigon markets will rise again

Fire crews at the Little Saigon market. Photo by Jason South.

The Little Saigon market will rise from its ashes with its owners pledging to rebuild a market on the site.

Fire tore through the iconic Footscray market last Tuesday, destroying half the building and severely damaging the rest.

Fire investigators have confirmed a fault in an electrical switchboard caused the blaze, estimated to have caused more than $12 million damage.

Co-owner Loc Lam said a search was under way for a joint venture partner to rebuild the market, with apartments to go above.

“We will rebuild 100 per cent. It takes time and we are going through the process and hope to rebuild something for the public,” Mr Lam said.

A planning permit to redevelop Little Saigon was issued in 2012, with plans showing two buildings of up to 12 storeys, comprising 260 dwellings and the new market at ground level.

Maribyrnong council infrastructure director Nigel Higgins said the permit had been extended twice and was due to expire on April 11 next year, if construction does not start by then.

Mr Lam said the redevelopment had been frozen since it was approved because the supermarket, the building’s major tenant, holds a lease until April 2017.

“We don’t need to wait now,” he said.

“The market building will be similar in size, with the same concept. We are hoping many of the traders come back, but it might be a year or two.”

Mr Lam said he feels “very sad” for the traders affected by the blaze, especially as it came at the busiest time of the year.

“Some don’t have insurance or enough insurance,” he said. “The timing of this was not the best.

“They had stocked up a fair bit for the festival trading.”

Maribyrnong council is looking for temporary sites for fruit and vegetable trading, and also for the Les Twentyman Foundation, which was above the market.

The blaze destroyed school books and toys donated to the foundation for Christmas, along with computer equipment used in its back-to-school program. A fundraising lunch  held at Crown Casino on Friday helped raise more than $150,000 for the Foundation.

A fundraising event to assist stricken traders will be held on Thursday evening at Rudimentary on Leeds Street.

The event will feature entertainment, carols and fundraising activities like red packet trees, a chopstick challenge, raffles and silent auctions with prizes donated by local businesses.