CEDA Forum: Designing Sydney's Future

(12pm, Friday 24 October 2014, Amora Hotel Jamison, Jamison Street)

Title: "The importance of urban renewal and large scale multi-use developments to the future of Sydney".

Thank you, Robert [Care, Arup], and hello, everyone.

I'd also like to acknowledge:

  • Lee Kelly, CEDA Director for NSW and the ACT
  • Honourable Pru Goward, NSW Minister for Planning
  • Tim Williams, CEO of the Committee for Sydney

The City of Sydney is doing well and it's the result of a decade of strong, stable, independent, leadership with a long-term vision.

One of my first priorities as Lord Mayor was to develop a long-term strategic plan to secure our city's future. We commissioned extensive research and undertook the largest ever community consultation in the City's history.

The result was Sustainable Sydney 2030 - the cornerstone of everything we do which has wide support and won worldwide acclaim.


In the last ten years we've worked closely with leading experts, consulted our community and delivered hundreds of projects.

We've developed better options for walking, riding and public transport. We're taking action with business to protect our environment and address climate change. We've invested in the city's creative and digital industries and they're now recognised internationally. The small bar revolution we championed has helped create more options at night and enlivened many of the city's laneways and forgotten spaces.

We've completed street upgrades, provided more child care, hosted bigger and better events, cultivated more engagement with businesses and constructed beautifully designed community facilities such as pools, libraries, theatres, community centres and playgrounds.

The City is financially secure. A real achievement when you consider that it was close to bankruptcy in the 1990's and we've responsibly planned for the future through investment and prudent financial management, delivering debt-free budgets and a substantial capital works program worth more than a billion dollars.

And we've made design-excellence a standard part of Sydney's development with City staff working closely with developers to guide outcomes including public benefits, where appropriate, like child-care centres, public art, creative spaces and cycle 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.

All major CBD projects go through a competitive design process, which we've extended to urban renewal areas. It is the only statutory pre-DA system for private land in the world, paid for by a floor space bonus. It has lifted the quality of architecture, public art and landscape design in our city from 20th century modern mundane.

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

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

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

This work over the last ten years has yielded impressive results.


The City is an economic powerhouse with $100 billion worth of economic activity generated within our local government area - up there with the mining industry and we contribute 8 per cent of Australia's GDP and 22 per cent of the State's economy.

We are now one of the fastest growing residential areas in NSW and three out of four people live in apartments in the Sydney LGA - while five years ago, less than 50 per cent of our residents lived and worked in our local government area, that figure has now increased to 65 per cent. In that time more than 50,000 new jobs have been created in our area and 2,000 new businesses have been opened. This is close to 40 per cent of all jobs growth in metropolitan Sydney in our area alone.

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 grew by 20 per cent. The area has become Sydney's creative heart with almost one in four workers employed by creative businesses.

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

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

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

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

A city where people want to live is a city where people want to work and visit.


When we developed Sustainable Sydney 2030, we incorporated the State Government's Metro Strategy requirements - and I can report we are on target for jobs growth, and ahead of schedule for population growth.

In the past 10 years, we have approved around $25 billion worth of development.

The latest RLB Crane Index (published in April) showed that the number of cranes on Sydney's skyline has risen 42% in six months. There are now more than 120 cranes at work across Sydney, and more than half are within 5km of the GPO.

In 2012-2013 we processed over $3.3 billion of development, over four times more than the nearest council. We approved almost 1,800 applications, the second highest in NSW.

We've consistently been in the top ten for DA times while processing the highest value and some of the highest numbers of complex applications.

In the five years to June 2014, we have overseen the completion of approximately 8,000 dwellings and there are currently a further 17,600 dwellings approved but not yet completed in the city.

According to the Department of Planning, the level of dwelling completions represents over 10% of Sydney's total dwelling completions over the last decade. In 2004, that figures was only 4%.

And we've reversed the historic trend of young families moving to the suburbs. It's estimated that by 2031 the number of families in our area will increase by 45 per cent.


Our City Plan, adopted in 2012, accommodates our increasing density in carefully-chosen areas.

The goal is to protect our heritage urban villages and focus density in urban renewal areas such as Green Square, Central Park, Harold Park and Ashmore Estate.

These sites represent tremendous opportunities. But to reach their full potential, and to contribute to Sydney's future growth and desirability, they have to be seen as more than just building sites.

We know that successful higher densities need to provide access to a wider job market, education and other essential services especially transport. But equally vital is a high-quality urban environment; one that is easy - and pleasant - to get around; one that provides opportunities for people to connect and has a diversity of cultural choices.

In the absence of a clear vision for urban renewal or adequate investment in infrastructure from the State, the City has worked closely with developers and business to get on and get results.

This year, we approved a record $1.94 billion publicly funded building and construction program over the next decade to provide new and refurbished facilities for a rapidly growing population and workforce.


Our largest renewal precinct—and one of Australia's largest urban renewal projects—is the 278 hectare Green Square redevelopment area.

The site is a "major centre" in the Metropolitan Strategy and is strategically located in the global economic corridor, between the CBD and the airport. It includes predominantly industrial areas in parts of Alexandria, Beaconsfield, Rosebery, Waterloo and Zetland.

With a projected completion cost of $8 billion, it is larger and more complex than the $6 billion Barangaroo development. By 2030, Green Square is expected to provide 20,000 jobs and house 54,000 residents.

Green Square was first earmarked for redevelopment in the mid-1990s and—despite the airport train line on the western edge of the area opening in 2000 and development on sites such as Landcom's Victoria Park and Meriton's ACI site—the project was virtually moribund when I was elected Lord Mayor in 2004.

The obstacles to development seemed insurmountable. Land for the Town Centre was in multiple ownerships, including land required for essential infrastructure.

The costs to deal with flooding and contamination were high, and there was no commitment to publicly fund infrastructure to stimulate private sector investment.

And beyond the involvement of Landcom, state agencies lacked any engagement and direction to get solutions, especially to address inadequate public transport.

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

A critical milestone was reached in 2009 when Landcom selected the Green Square Consortium, composed of Mirvac Projects and Leighton Properties, to redevelop significant sites in the Town Centre.

And in 2010, when the Consortium partners argued that the Town Centre was not viable without increased density, we agreed to consider a new planning proposal, put it to the community and have now endorsed it.

The City is funding facilities and infrastructure to enable development and ensure high quality design—including around $440 million committed for the Town Centre and over $800 million across the wider Green Square area.

An international design competition for the $40 million library and public space, was won two 20-something Sydney architects from Stewart Hollenstein, with Colin Stewart Architects. The design fuses innovative buildings with an outdoor plaza, creating a flexible range of spaces for books and technology, meetings, performances and events, an amphitheatre, a story-telling garden, water-play zone and open 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.

In the near future we'll announce the winners of a design competition for a new aquatic centre and kids' play area in Gunyama Park, which will also have a multi-purpose sports field and playground. We've planned generous new open green space, including a new 6,500 square metre park in the Town Centre and other smaller parks.

After years of discussing about the need for flood mitigation measures Sydney Water finally agreed to fund 53 per cent of the State's responsibility for trunk drainage.

We have set a target of 330 affordable rental units at Green Square over the next 15 or 20 years, with almost a third already being built.

Our plan for precinct-wide, low-carbon trigeneration has been made difficult by Federal and State government 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 will install trigeneration for the city-owned Green Square Aquatic Centre, facilities on the former South Sydney Hospital site and nearby street lighting.

Development is now well underway, with another 10 towers anticipated for construction by early 2015.

Just this week, I joined around 400 locals to open the East Village shopping centre in Victoria Park.

Developers PAYCE, architects Turner and Hassell, and Japanese architect Koichi Takada who worked on the interiors, have created an extraordinary, mixed-used development. An excellent example of high-quality design it includes a supermarket, specialty shops, a childcare centre, gym and apartments with its own low-carbon trigeneration to provide local energy, heating and cooling and achieved a five-star green rating.

A key concern for us in Green Square is transport. Light rail was first announced in 1995 and is now needed urgently - 10,000 people have already moved into the area with many residents along the eastern edge, well away from the Green Square heavy rail.

The City had to buy several sites to secure the vital light rail corridor. We are waiting, along with the community, for the State to reveal transport plans for this critical site as well as for State schools and other facilities for the 54,000 residents who live in Green Square.


Just 400 metres from Central Station, the 5.8 hectare Carlton & United Brewery site on Broadway, now known as Central Park, is undergoing one of Sydney's most dense residential redevelopments along with commercial office space, student accommodation, shops and cafes.

In a neighbourhood that was once an industrial complex of railway lines, warehouses, a brewery and a newspaper printing press, we are witnessing the creation of a new precinct of world-leading design and innovation.

The redevelopment includes community facilities, retention of heritage items and infrastructure improvements. A new, beautifully designed park that is integrated with surrounding low-rise Chippendale helped reduce concerns of locals.

There is a pedestrian and cycle route that connects with the City's bike network, on-site car share and flexibly designed car parks.

With the development of Kensington Street as a vibrant space for bars, cafes, shops and galleries, Central Park has extended the emerging profile of Chippendale as a cultural hub, as has the developers' support for the annual BEAMS festival of light.

The choice by site developers Frasers Property and Seikisui House to engage world-leading architects for their $2 billion precinct—including Jean Nouvel from France, UK's Foster + Partners and landscape architect Patrick Blanc—has resulted in an innovative redevelopment that has quickly become a landmark. Especially Jean Nouvel's vertical gardens and unique heliostat.

Australian greats are also involved - Johnson Pilton Walker; Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and Durbach Block Jaggers.

The City, Eureka Funds Management and Frasers/Sekisui House have signed an historic $26.5 million Environmental Upgrade Agreement to install a gas-powered trigeneration to provide low carbon thermal energy to four thousand residents and 65,000 square metres of retail and commercial space in 14 buildings.

Central Park also has a Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) to provide recycled water for those 4,000 residents, as well as 15,000 workers and visitors expected each day.

Nearby, broader renewal is underway in the form of UTS's new Faculty of Engineering and Information, designed by Denten Corker Marshall and the new Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, the first building in Australia designed by Frank Gehry.

Linking this area to Darling Harbour is the Goods Line - a new public space designed by ASPECT Studios with architects Choi Ropiha Fighera—which will connect pedestrians and bike riders from the creative hub of Surry Hills to the home of Sydney's growing education, tech and start-up community in Ultimo and Pyrmont.

And to the east and south, the State Government has earmarked the rail corridor to Eveleigh for regeneration and the City of Sydney will work closely with UrbanGrowth to ensure a world class planning process and outcome.


Another key City renewal site is the former Harold Park racetrack at Glebe.

While at early meetings local residents expressed an overwhelming support for the entire site to become public open space, I argued that was not an option.

If we were to protect our heritage areas while meeting State targets, we needed housing development on renewal sites. This site in particular was obvious - 10 hectares on light-rail and bus routes 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 of rezoning, and together we agreed on 38 per cent of the site, that was currently private open space, to become public open space.

Our other planning parameters included respecting the predominant height of surrounding heritage terrace houses in Glebe and Forest Lodge Valley, the restoration of the historic tram sheds and affordable housing for essential workers.

We gave the community opportunities to review studies on traffic, retail and social analysis, and to give their feedback.

Ultimately, there was broad acceptance of the development. 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 restored tram sheds. Higher sustainability targets mean new owners will save by using less energy and water.

And critically, one-third of the site - almost four hectares - becomes public open space. The new public park links to the Glebe Foreshore (Stage 5) and surrounding suburbs with cycling and walking networks.


The fundamentals are clear if we are to secure a broad consensus of public support for increased densities and deliver the high standards required for a leading global city.

Effective consultation is vital to respond to the concerns of existing residents and to bring them on the journey.

Work to overcome barriers is key — completing broad research, facilitating the various parties to work together, preparing funded infrastructure plans and promoting innovative solutions.

And most importantly, ensuring urban renewal addresses broader needs and produces tangible public benefits to the state and local economy.

In the last ten years, the transformation of our city has been built block by block, project by project with a very clear agenda on architectural quality, business growth, residential diversity, creative capacity, liveability and importantly sustainability.

Residents, workers and businesses don't just need a roof - they need a city with cultural life, community services, parks, good transport and places to meet.