Bays Precinct Summit - Living Cities

(1pm, Thursday 20 November 2014, Australian Technology Park, Redfern)

Urban Growth / Bays Precinct Summit (Living Cities A - City Leadership & Place Making) - Assembly 8

Thank you, [MC].

I'd like to warmly welcome our interstate and international visitors to Sydney, the liveable city I have the privilege to lead.

My City Government is directly responsible for 26 square kilometres and 200,000 residents, and for the one million people in our area each day for work, study, shopping or entertainment.

Our area contributes 22 per cent to the State's economy and 8 per cent of the national GDP. The decisions we make for this inner city area underpin the sustainability of the metropolitan area, indeed the entire nation.

I have been asked to speak about living cities with reference to place making and the role of leadership in achieving it.

As Lord Mayor of Sydney, I will not be giving a philosophical or academic treatise, but will show by example what we have done over more than ten years to promote liveability in our villages and in our growth areas; and show how leadership is critical to achieve this, particularly in the face of negative media and frightened politicians.

I will give examples of inner Sydney urban renewal, with a brief assessment of what's worked and what hasn't—and some of the reasons for these outcomes.

BACKGROUND

It was the quest for a better living environment that got me involved in public life in the first place.

I taught briefly in Sydney and London and my career change occurred when, as a mother of two small children, I was marooned in our first home in the then run-down inner city suburb of Redfern. Through-traffic ran down every residential street, the parks were dustbowls, the children's playgrounds had rusty equipment and the street trees were massacred on a regular basis.

After living in London I knew things should and could be a lot better. So I got active, resulting in 17 years in City government, 10 years as Mayor and 24 years in State Parliament—five as Member for Sydney (2007-2012) and the rest as Member for the former inner-Sydney seat of Bligh.

We still live in Redfern and I can happily report that our environment is now a joy!

 

BAYS PRECINCT OPPORTUNITY

I don't agree with the Premier that the Bays Precinct is a wasteland! I think it is an extraordinary site. There is a marvellous opportunity to do something really outstanding, complementing and enhancing its harbour setting and creating a world class development that is liveable, sustainable and exciting.

I'd like to be able to say that I welcomed with unreserved optimism the announcement of the plan to revitalise the Bays Precinct, but government sponsored urban renewal on public land does not have a good record in Sydney.

In Europe and Asia, the infrastructure goes in first and development follows. I wish I could at least say we do it the other way around here, but the reality is that infrastructure, particularly transport, is often not provided at all.

So, like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts cartoon - who persists in believing that Lucy won't whip the ball away at the last minute before he kicks it - I will proceed in the hope that things will be different this time and so I am supporting this planning process in the hope that there is a good outcome for Sydney.

The Treasurer's 16,000 homes target, announced on Tuesday, made it feel as if the ball had already been whipped away, however the Minister for Planning assured me that there was no basis for that announcement.

 

OUR INVOLVEMENT SO FAR

On 25 August, Council supported my Lord Mayoral Minute to help the community contribute effectively to the Bays Precinct planning process. Council has also supported the community developed planning principles and endorsed up to $60,000 for community engagement.

Some of the funding assisted the University of Sydney to work with the community on a website for sharing information and community discussion (baysprecinctpeoplescampaign.com).

The City hosted a well-attended public talk in Lower Town Hall on the Bays Precinct, organised by the University of Sydney as part of its "Festival of Urbanism", with an international speaker, a community representative and a consultation expert.

And last Sunday, we provided Glebe Town Hall and a facilitator to run a meeting for community representatives to further develop their ideas. The meeting endorsed principles to be put to the Summit—most importantly that renewal must give precedence to the public good and provide for full community engagement.

To support community understanding and input into the Summit, the City also commissioned two reports:

  • "Best Practice in Urban Renewal" by SGS Economics & Planning - a review of international case studies.
  • "Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Program: Planning processes and consultation report" by Elton Consulting—a historical summary of planning processes for the precinct and the key issues.

These reports provide a valuable resource for the precinct's future and are available on City's consultation site, sydneyyoursay.com.au.

 

THE BAYS PRECINCT

Sydney Harbour and the Bays Precinct is the jewel in the heart of our City, it provides deep water berthing for shipping, it borders important recreational space and has commercial uses including maritime support.

As part of this planning exercise, the future of existing industries needs to be fully assessed. There may be benefit in some being retained while others may be identified for ultimate relocation.

The site has enormous potential.

 

OUR VISION FOR A LIVEABLE SYDNEY

So what has the City done to enhance liveability, especially on our urban renewal sites? How do we see the Bays Precinct renewal fitting into our overall vision, and how could that be achieved?

In 2004, when I first stood for election as Lord Mayor, my community independent team promoted a vision for Sydney as a City of Villages. We understood the CBD as a high rise business and residential core surrounded by a ring of historic, 19th century villages of houses and local shops, parks, schools and other facilities.

And we made the decision that essential growth would be accommodated in urban renewal areas such as former industrial, institutional and sporting sites. This vision has since been formalised in our City Plan.

As the 21st century equivalents of the historic villages, we aimed to develop the new high-density precincts with mixed living, shopping and working areas, in very different but inviting neighbourhoods with most facilities just a short walk away.

And like the older villages, they are developing their own unique characteristics.

The complex planning for cities is not aided by false dichotomies that ignore the inter-dependence between successful urban economies and appealing city living, between high-rise and the fine grain, between workability and liveability.

To create a great city, leaders have to understand and address these inter-dependencies.

 

SUSTAINABLE SYDNEY 2030

As well as a land use plan, our team wanted an all-embracing strategic plan addressing the most important aspects of our city government responsibilities.

We began with extensive research and the most comprehensive consultations in the City's history. We invited residents, our business communities, other levels of government, our arts and cultural institutions to tell us what sort of city they wanted now and in the future.

The result was Sustainable Sydney 2030.

It sets a target to cut carbon emissions by 70 per cent by 2030. Our organisation was the first local government in Australia to become carbon neutral in 2007, and we've since reduced our emissions by 21 per cent, on target to reach 26 per cent by 2016.

Sustainable Sydney 2030 also sets clear strategies to build stronger communities, foster a diverse cultural life, and make the city an attractive place to live, work, to study in and do business.

We have stuck to our plan - it was never going to go into the bottom drawer like so many other "visions" to be forgotten and gather dust. It guides everything we do and we test all our proposals against it.

 

ACTION ON SS2030

It has helped us over the decade to develop better options for walking, cycling and public transport. We've partnered with business to reduce emissions and address climate change.

We've invested in the city's creative and digital industries. In Oxford Street and William Street, we've provided our own properties as affordable work spaces to artists and creative entrepreneurs, encouraging innovation and promoting a vibrant day time economy in these main street precincts.

We've boosted the inner east performing arts precinct with the award winning Eternity Playhouse and the Hayes Theatre, a venue for cabaret and musical theatre. The small bar revolution we championed has helped create options at night and enlivened the city's forgotten spaces.

We've completed street upgrades, provided more child care, hosted bigger and better cultural and celebratory events, engaged more closely with businesses and built beautifully designed, multi-award-winning community facilities like pools, libraries, theatres, community centres and playgrounds.

We are able to do this because the City is financially secure - a real achievement when you consider that it was close to bankruptcy in the 1990s. And we've responsibly planned for the future through investment and prudent financial management, delivering debt-free budgets and a substantial capital works program, over ten years.

And importantly, we are corruption free. We don't do deals, and our processes are open and accountable. This is crucial for large projects such as the Bays Precinct, ensuring that the best solutions are obtained at best value, and that the community is involved for the whole journey.

We believe only the best will do for our City. So we've made design excellence a hallmark of City development. City experts work closely with developers to guide outcomes, including public benefits where appropriate, like child-care centres, public art, creative spaces and end-of-trip cycling facilities.

My ambition has been to raise the quality of the public realm - to respect the best of our past while creating a legacy for the future.

Major development projects — over 55 metres in Central Sydney and over 25 metres in other areas — are required to go through a competitive design process. It is the only statutory pre-DA system for private land in the world, paid for by a floor space bonus. It has provided an enormous boost to the quality of architecture, public art and landscape design in our city.

The program has resulted in over 100 projects being awarded bonus floor space for design excellence, with many recognised internationally.

Our competition system has produced stunning results like Lumiere, 200 George Street, 1 Bligh Street, 8 Chifley Square, ANZ Tower and Liberty Place while AMP's twin-block proposal at Circular Quay promises to reconfigure the area into a fine-grain low-rise laneway environment partnered with a green, vertical village office tower.

And our own public projects have won more than 50 national and international design awards.

We are building a connected, destination-based cycle networkto provide for the increasing numbers of commuters and people who want to ride to work, to deliver their toddler to child-care or simply to get around their local area.

Our work to produce a better environment in City villages and their main streets has seen dramatic transformations. It's amazing the difference that attractive paving, improved street furniture, removal of overhead wires, pocket parks, playgrounds and extensive tree plantings can make!

Our village main streets are beautified with flower baskets on smart poles above and at footpath level through rain gardens that filter stormwater and help create a cleaner harbour and waterways.

A former no-go area like Redfern Street, its commercial premises shuttered at night and dark, its footpaths empty, is now a lively strip of coffee shops, small bars, commercial enterprises and artists' studios - the heart of what is now the hippest new part of the city.

Although we have no authority over transport, it was an essential aspect of our work for Sustainable Sydney 2030. With urbanist Jan Gehl, we envisaged George Street as a generous boulevard for pedestrians and cyclists, served by light-rail from Central Station to Circular Quay.

We commissioned studies which we presented to the incoming State Government, and we were delighted when a commitment to the project was made by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, including expansion beyond City boundaries to the east.

 

OTHER LIVEABLE CITY ATTRIBUTES

Competition among cities to attract the best global talent is driving improvements around the world. This mobile workforce wants cities with a lively social and cultural life, a welcoming and safe late night culture, and a diversity of activities and places to enjoy.

We support a range of festivals and activities from Sydney New Year's Eve and the Sydney Festival, to smaller local village events, and our massive Chinese New Year Festival, the largest outside Asia, always attracts a strong contingent from our Chinese partner cities, as well as ever-growing spectators on the streets.

We now have a lively small-bar culture. Many are popping up in our revitalised laneways, along with quirky retail, cafes and other businesses. Over time, the city centre will be webbed with these previously-disused lanes, adding a new layer of scale, texture and vibrancy to the city.

Another project to come out of our 2030 Strategy is the "cultural ribbon" which proposes linking major institutions across the city and around the harbour, from the Australian Museum and Art Gallery to the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, Walsh Bay theatres and beyond, to reinforce the city's cultural offering.

And finally, the Eora Journey project is fulfilling a deep need to recognise the extraordinary richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and its continuing presence in our City.

We have commissioned Tony Albert, a talented aboriginal artist to create a memorial to recognise the hitherto unacknowledged role of indigenous servicemen and women in wartime, it will be unveiled for Anzac Day 2015 and there will also be other works, culminating in Redfern, the heart of indigenous urban culture.

 

THE RESULTS

The results of this work are evident. We're one of the fastest-growing residential areas in NSW and we're exceeding our state government allocated quota of new housing. And while five years ago, less than half our residents lived and worked in the LGA, that figure now stands at 65 per cent.

In that time, more than 50,000 new jobs have been created and 2,000 new businesses have opened. This is 40 per cent of all jobs growth in metropolitan Sydney.

Some of the biggest jobs growth has taken place in our villages.

Pyrmont and Ultimo have seen a 46 per cent growth in jobs, with the digital economy leading the way.

Employment in Surry Hills and Redfern has grown by 20 per cent, and the area is now Sydney's creative heart, with almost one in four workers employed in the creative industries.

Glebe, Annandale and Camperdown have seen a 38 per cent rise in jobs, and there are now 23 per cent more jobs in Haymarket and Chinatown.

Sydney is also now the world's most popular city for study, ahead of 83 other cities including London and New York in this year's Global Cities Index.

And a study last month has shown Sydney is the fourth most appealing destination for skilled international workers, behind London, New York and Paris.

These things don't happen by accident. It takes careful planning and investment that is in tune with economic and social change. By creating a city where people come first, we've shown how jobs, new businesses and investment can follow.

 

LEADERSHIP

Introducing new ideas into Australian cities requires leadership and the need to carry commitment through to successful completion.

Our introduction of separated cycleways has generated ongoing outrage from right wing media and shock jocks, even though these safer paths are a successful contribution to travel options in our city and help reduce congestion (costs $5 million a year). I am accused of wrecking the joint, conducting a jihad against motorists and being a bad influence on the State Government—which initially joined in the negativity, but is now building some of our cycle ways in the CBD.

We got derision from the same quarters when we announced the winning art works for enhancing a pedestrianised George Street, even though they were the result of an international competition and chosen by an expert panel. You know the old lines of "waste of public money" and "my five year-old could do better"...

And for small bars to be allowed after decades of trenchant opposition by the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) that controlled the major political parties via large donations, the City mounted a public campaign backed by my private members bill in Parliament, and the then government caved in. Now we have here a vibrant small bar culture enhancing city business and providing opportunities for art and performance.

If you give in to these unelected wannabe opinion spruikers, you lose your credibility as a leader.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life, Is bound in shallows and in miseries" [Brutus: Julius Ceasar]

 

RECENT URBAN RENEWAL PLANNING THAT HAS WORKED

I want now to talk about recent urban renewal planning that has been successful.

 

Harold Park

Harold Park was a former harness racing club with trotting track in Glebe and a decision was made to relocate to the outskirts of Sydney.

At early meetings, local residents wanted the entire site to become public open space. But I argued that if we were to protect our existing heritage areas while meeting State housing targets, we needed medium to high density housing development on renewal sites. This site in particular was ideal - 10 hectares on existing light-rail and bus routes and within three kilometres of the CBD.

In tandem with public meetings, we negotiated with the owners. I wanted to secure a long-term legacy for the public in exchange for the substantial benefit to the vendor of rezoning. The results of that negotiation was that 38 per cent of the site that was currently private open space would become public open space.

Restoration of the historic tram sheds and affordable housing for essential workers was also agreed.

We asked the community to review traffic, retail and social analysis studies and to give their feedback. Ultimately, there was broad acceptance and the latest reports show keen buyer interest.

This $1.1 billion development will include 1,200 residences for 2,500 people, including 50 units of affordable housing. It will also include retail space with a supermarket, gym and individual retail stores in the tram sheds. Higher sustainability targets mean new owners will save by using less energy and water.

And critically, almost four hectares becomes public open space, which connects with the Glebe Foreshore and surrounding suburbs by walking and cycling paths.

Central Park

And then there's Central Park, on the edge of the CBD, a 5.8 hectare former brewery site which is probably Sydney's densest residential redevelopment which also incorporates commercial office space, student accommodation, shops and cafes.

It's in a neighbourhood that was once an industrial complex of railway lines, warehouses, a large brewery and a newspaper printing press adjacent housing.

It gets away with its size because it is just 400 metres from Central Station, and some of the world's best designers were engaged, and the redevelopment includes infrastructure improvements, community facilities, heritage restoration and a new, beautifully designed park integrated with surrounding, low-rise Chippendale - all of which helped reduce the concerns of locals.

A pedestrian and cycle route connects with the City's cycle network.

This was a State approved development and I commend developers Frasers Property and Sekisui House who made the decision to engage great architects for their $2 billion precinct -Jean Nouvel; Foster + Partners; landscape architect Patrick Blanc; PTW; Johnson Pilton Walker; Tonkin Zulaikha Greer; Nettleton Tribe; FJMT; and Tzannes and Associates.

The result is an innovative redevelopment that has quickly become a landmark.

Last week, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat named One Central Park as the Best Tall Building Worldwide.

Kensington Street, an original street in the Central Park complex, has been retained to be a vibrant space for bars, cafes, shops and galleries, boosting the emerging profile of Chippendale as a cultural hub; as has the developers' support for the annual local BEAMS Festival of Light.

And it's sustainable, as all 21st Century large development sites must be. The site has a $26.5 million gas-powered tri-generation plant achieved through an environment upgrade agreement the City facilitated that provides low-carbon energy to 4,000 residents and 65,000 square metres of retail and commercial space in 14 buildings, as well as a bioreactor providing recycled water for non-potable use.

Great development continues across Broadway at UTS - including DCM's fine building; Frank Gehry's first in-Australia building and the old Goods Line, a SHFA project, is being redesigned as a way to connect pedestrians and cyclists from the creative hub of Surry Hills to the growing community of education, tech and start-up businesses.

 

URBAN RENEWAL THAT NEEDED TO BE RESCUED

And then there's urban renewal that needed to be rescued.

 

Green Square

Green Square is Sydney's former industrial area with pockets of residential. It is strategically located in the global economic corridor between the CBD and airport. With a projected completion cost of $8 billion, by 2030 it is expected to provide 20,000 jobs and house 54,000 residents.

It was first earmarked for redevelopment in the mid-1990s, and - despite a private airport train line opening on its western edge in 2000 and some residential development on a couple of sites - the project was virtually moribund when I was elected Lord Mayor in 2004.

The obstacles seemed insurmountable. Land for the Town Centre, including land for essential infrastructure, was in 18 lots of ownership, split between state and local government authorities and private landowners.

The costs to deal with flooding and contamination were high and there was no commitment to publicly fund infrastructure. The State consistently failed to allocate land for essentials like transport and education even while sites were still in government ownership.

So the City began a comprehensive review of the financing, land use, urban design, retail, traffic, transport, street layouts, stormwater management, social planning, open space, community facilities and overall infrastructure.

A critical milestone was finally reached in 2009 when Landcom, the predecessor to Urban Growth, selected the consortium to redevelop significant sites in the Town Centre. The following year, when the consortium partners argued that without government contributions the Town Centre needed increased density to make it viable, we agreed to consider a new proposal. We put it to the community and secured its endorsement, despite reservations.

We wanted to ensure that the growth of Green Square would be supported by everything needed to make large cities liveable: a thriving town centre and main street, a sense of community sustained with markets, festivals and an active street life; and of course sustainable transport options allowing people to easily walk or cycle.

The City developed a fully costed, comprehensive infrastructure plan and we are investing $440 million over the next decade to provide local services and facilities -new roads and footpaths, flood drainage works, new parks and playgrounds, public art, child-care and affordable housing.

An international design competition for a $40 million library and public space was won by two 20-something Sydney architects Stewart Hollenstein. Their scheme fuses innovative buildings with an outdoor plaza, creating a flexible range of spaces for books and technology, meetings, performances and events, an amphitheatre, and space for festivals.

Other facilities will be housed in historic buildings on the former South Sydney Hospital site: a community hall, meeting rooms, exhibition and studio spaces, an arts workshop and a theatrette.

I recently announced the winners of a design competition for a new aquatic centre which will have a multi-purpose sports field and children's playground. We've planned generous open space, including a new 6,500 square metre park in the Town Centre and other smaller parks.

A liveable city has a mix of people, and we've provided for at least 330 affordable rental units, with almost a third of that already being built.

Our plan for precinct-wide, low-carbon tri-generation has been made difficult by Federal and State regulations that don't allow energy to be transported to adjoining owners. However, we will establish a private-wire network which will protect future options, and we'll install tri-gen for the city-owned facilities and street lighting.

Land in Green Square is prone to severe flooding, and after years of discussing the need for flood mitigation, the State agency Sydney Water finally agreed to fund half of the $80 million plus cost of trunk drainage - theoretically, their responsibility. But since redevelopment requires the drainage, the City agreed to fund the rest to avoid further delays.

And because the former State Government failed to act, we also bought land for a new transport corridor for light rail.

We are still waiting, along with the growing community, for the State to reveal its plans for transport and public schools. In the meantime, construction of another 10 towers is underway, and investment is booming.

 

Barangaroo

And lastly, there is urban renewal promoted by money, power and politics.

Barangaroo (who was the partner of Aborigine Bennelong) is the new name for the former extensive container wharves on publicly owned land on the western foreshores of the CBD.

The project started well with an international competition and the community welcomed the resulting concept plan. But the plan was abandoned, floor space has kept on increasing, and—if the latest proposals are approved—it will rise to 70 per cent in excess of what was originally proposed.

Any pretence of effective public consultation has been abandoned and a last minute casino is being proposed on land that had been earmarked for public parkland, under a questionable policy called "an unsolicited proposal".

 

HOW TO GET GET URBAN RENEWAL RIGHT!

In July this year, the City signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UrbanGrowth NSW to cover major renewal projects within the City -the Bays Precinct, Parramatta Road and the Central to Eveleigh corridor.

Working collaboratively, the City and UrbanGrowth could deliver substantial benefits to NSW while meeting targets for housing diversity, sustainability, urban amenity, transport and the economy.

The City has a proven track record in strategic planning, design and community engagement, while UrbanGrowth can bring its development and delivery expertise, and coordination between the City and the NSW Government.

The MoU outlines principles for planning renewal that follow the approaches we take with our own projects.

The vision must be long-term and embody "non-negotiables". These include sustainability, design excellence, public access to the entire foreshore, social mix, and no new overshadowing of important public domain.

Finally, the commitment to actually deliver the agreed plan must be assured so that the community can regain faith in the planning process.

 

CONCLUSION

At the forefront of planning for the Bays Precinct must be the concept that this is publicly-owned land and its development must bring clear public benefits. Decisions need to be open and transparent, with proper planning processes.

Sustainability has to be a fundamental part of any plan. In the 21st century, it is not acceptable to redevelop large parts of our city based on power from the coal-fired grid.

The area, with its deep-water port, maritime fleet, fish markets and power station, is an important remnant of Sydney's fast-disappearing maritime and industrial history. Its renewal must recognise this by conserving and adapting significant buildings and structures, and providing creative interpretations of that history.

An integrated public transport strategy - including ferries - is essential, and should maximise access and sustainable operation. The City of Sydney has the second-highest residential densities in Australia, and Leichhardt Council, which also adjoins the precinct, has the fourth highest. So a range of transport options is vital.

A diverse range of housing, including affordable housing and accommodation for students, should be part of the mix - though carefully located to not preclude maritime and working harbour uses. And new development should respect the heritage and character of existing neighbourhoods.

Public access to the foreshore must be maximised. The City has done extensive work to open up our section of the Glebe foreshore, and two weeks ago I officially opened Stage 5 - 300 metres to complete a 2.17 kilometres foreshore walk with re-established mangroves, small beaches for kids and dogs to paddle in, and stair access to the water for launching small boats and canoes.

The City and the local community have argued for the retention of the Glebe Island Bridge. Aside from its heritage value, the bridge provides protection for small recreational craft like kayaks and dragon boats in Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays.

The bridge, which was originally designed to carry a tramway, could also host a future light-rail connection from Glebe Island and, potentially, Balmain East and the cruise shipping terminal, to the City via the Fish Markets.

This new precinct could substantially boost the economic life of the city and the State. It could provide new space for our universities, be a hub for sustainable research and development, and allow for the expansion of start-ups and creative industries.

Most importantly, its redevelopment must serve a larger vision for Sydney - one that will meet important broader needs for housing and jobs, while integrating with surrounding areas and benefiting local communities.

A truly liveable, sustainable Bays Precinct will fulfil all those demands.

The Bays Precinct could be a first for Sydney where the public in general[limit]