The NSW government has announced a dramatic new plan to redevelop an area over the rail lines at Sydney’s Central Station into a new high-density precinct that would bring thousands of extra workers and residents to the southern end of the CBD.
The masterplan for the 24ha site will include up to 15 new buildings that will range in height from four to 34 storeys, and house offices, hotels, apartments, restaurants and bars, and a variety of other community and cultural spaces.
The site will also have 60,000 sq m of open space in the form of three new parks, a major public square and several plazas.
The government estimates the precinct will take about 10 to 15 years to complete, but when finished will be a major destination for global companies, major hotels and retailers.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine this iconic part of our CBD and transform it into world class precinct of shops, restaurants, office spaces, parkland and additional housing,” said Premier Dominic Perrottet.
“It will be a major job-generating project and will inject further local and global business investment into the Sydney CBD.”
The announcement comes as an area next to Central Station is already being turned into a technology hub that will include companies such as Atlassian, Afterpay, Canva, ROKT and Safety Culture.
Work has just started on Atlassian’s $1.4-billion headquarters in the tech hub—a 39-storey hybrid timber tower, which is tipped to become the tallest of its type in the world.
The redevelopment of the Central Station precinct has been praised by planners and others in the industry who say it will be crucial to Sydney’s ability to continue attracting investment and growing the city’s economy.
“This kind of place is critical to the future of Sydney,” said Urbis director Kate Meyrick.
It would “gift to Sydney the same type of opportunity as London’s Kings Cross rail yards”, she said, which would allow the precinct to attract “a number of enlightened, high-value businesses that help to bring energy to our economy and community.
“In a new knowledge economy these kinds of places are very valuable and important.”
The location on top of one of the busiest stations in the city, as well as next to major bus routes and the light-rail line, made it one of the most connected parts of the city and a natural ‘gateway’, she said.
Chief executive of The Committee for Sydney Gabriel Metcalf agreed the location made sense for such a large project.
“If you believe, as we do, that Sydney’s growth should be concentrated around public transport, then Central Station is one of the best places to go big.”
However, he said the real test would be whether the specific plan could “resolve the public realm issues of such a complicated site, with level changes and lots of passenger movements, to make it feel like a nice place to be. Over-station developments are notoriously tricky.”
The masterplan for the site includes 515,000 sq m of internal space across all the buildings, of which 52 per cent would be devoted to office space.
There would also be 850 new homes, with 15 per cent of those reserved for affordable housing, and a further 15 per cent for ‘diverse housing’, such as build-to-rent and student accommodation.
Chief executive of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (NSW) Steve Mann said they supported the Central Station Renewal plan, and praised the government for improving it since they took part in a workshop with the government in April.
But he said it still was not ‘ambitious’ enough, given the location of the site.
“The site has the capacity to deliver much more than the proposed 850 dwellings,” he said.
“This would mean more opportunities for housing across the entire spectrum. More affordable housing, more student housing, more housing for young professionals and families and more opportunities for downsizers in one of the most accessible locations Sydney has to offer.
“A genuine commitment to mixed-use transit orientated development (TOD), that enables people to live and work in the heart of the city will activate the space and create vibrancy, and lead to a Central Precinct that Sydney can be proud of and one that matches the other great central stations of the world.”
Infrastructure, cities and active transport minister Rob Stokes said the new precinct would also be a chance to “heal” that part of the city, which had been “torn apart since the railway divided Surry Hills from Ultimo back in 1874”.
Several over-rail connections, including a Devonshire Street bridge, would be built linking the precinct to surrounding neighbourhoods, he said.
“The masterplan celebrated the heritage of the precinct while also offering a grand new public square, three new parks, new community, social services hubs as well as at least 30 per cent affordable and diverse housing to better meet the needs of all sections of the community,” Stokes said.
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