Oxford St comes together for round table

Oxford Street businesses, institutions, several business partnerships, both local councils and government agencies committed to working together to get the strip thriving, at a round table I hosted at Town Hall this week.

Traffic was a major focus of the discussion, with many participants showing interest in a proposal to convert Oxford Street into five lanes. One lane would switch direction between morning and afternoon peak traffic as occurs on the Harbour Bridge and Military Road, Neutral Bay.

There was also strong support for Oxford Street becoming a light rail route. David Faktor, the manager of public affairs and communications at St Vincent's Hospital, said light rail would be better for the hospital's 5000 staff and visitors, many of whom now use Kings Cross Station. Several people agreed light rail would provide faster and more reliable access to Oxford Street's many attractions such as its galleries, cinemas and restaurants.

The strip's rich mix of colonial history, gay culture, creative arts, fashion retail, dining and late night activity is internationally renowned - but, people agreed, not celebrated enough on Oxford Street itself.

Several participants talked about the importance of working together, particularly to promote Oxford Street's positive features, rather than allowing negative aspects to dominate.

I was pleased to learn about collaborative partnerships already being established. Berkelouw and Ariel Bookshops are already working with the Verona Cinema and COFA on opportunities to for cultural activities in their section of Oxford Street.

Others spoke about forthcoming events that could be used by other to extend their businesses. Attendees agreed to provide details of upcoming events to the City so it could be compiled and circulated.

I was pleased to welcome Woollahra's Mayor, Cr Susan Wynne, and her fellow Paddington Ward Councillors, Greg Medcraft and Peter Cavanagh, and Allan Coker, Woollahra Council's director of planning and development. Destination NSW was represented by its Events and Marketing Manager and the Small Business Commissioner by the Director of its Retail Tenancy Unit.

Disappointingly, Transport for NSW declined to send a representative, even though it is the NSW government authority with direct responsibility for public transport, including light rail, speed limits and clearways on Oxford Street. We will continue to engage the authority in being involved in Oxford Street's renewal.

It was encouraging to hear the ideas and constructive spirit of the session, with people involved along the length of Oxford Street clearly recognising the role they can plan in its renewal.

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