Widely regarded as Australia’s Silicon Valley, Macquarie Park is on a course to expand rapidly as a commercial and technology centre over the next 50 years.
With over 855,000 sqm of commercial office floorspace, Macquarie Park is Sydney’s second largest office market, second only to the CBD.
The 200-hectare employment area was formed in the late 1960s to support the coming together of technology businesses with the newly created Macquarie University.
To better understand the evolution of Macquarie Park, The Urban Developer sat down with Carlos Frias, Director at planning and advisory firm Urbis, who has extensive experience in the planning of technology and business precincts around Australia.
Challenges And Opportunities Ahead As Macquarie Park Balances The Growing Need For Both Housing And Industry
Whilst Macquarie Park presents a great opportunity for future development in the city, Frias believes that the precinct needs to sensibly balance its growth as a commercial, education and technology hub with rapidly growing demand for housing.
Projections indicate the stand-alone office workforce is forecast to grow from approximately 42,000 (December 2015) at an average annual rate of 2.9%, reaching a level of 55,800 by 2025 and an estimated 173,000 by 2065.
He cites four core areas that planning authorities and the development industry need to focus on:
Retaining Its Position As An Important Employment Centre in Sydney.
Current forecasts indicate that Macquarie Park is likely to accommodate between 2.9 and 3.6 million square metres of office space over the next 50 years, roughly three to four times its current size.
The Macquarie Park Strategic Employment Review compiled for the NSW State Government states that allowing unfettered residential development in the logical areas for commercial space risks limiting the Centre’s employment potential.
A claim supported by Frias who believes that clearly identifiable land use provisions are essential to ensuring that residential uses do not erode the commercial function of the centre. Alternate options could include retaining a commercial core or mixing residential with commercial provided that a minimum floorspace of commercial uses are developed.
Allowing For A Balanced Provision Of Residential And Non-Residential Uses
Macquarie Park requires residential uses that build a local community and make better use of the public transport infrastructure while reducing the private vehicle usage.
An increased working and residential population will promote better use of the public domain as well as outdoor activities such as restaurants and shops.
Finding Mechanisms To Encourage The Provision Of Additional Schools, Social Infrastructure And Open Spaces To Service The Future Community.
FSR (Floor Space Ratio) incentives, that result in higher density, could be a mechanism that facilitates the provision of social infrastructure, such as schools and medical centres.
Consideration should also be given to improve connections to existing local parks and the Lane Cove National Park north of the M2 Motorway, which are important social assets that are currently severed by existing road infrastructure.
Creating A Permeable Network Of Streets.
According to The Macquarie Park Strategic Employment Review, transport and services infrastructure has failed to keep up with the pace of commercial development and, as a result, Macquarie Park is currently facing serious traffic problems.
Amongst stakeholders in Macquarie Park, there is a view that these issues need to be resolved before changes are made to state or local planning controls that would encourage higher density development.
Frias outlines that the growth of the precinct is being assisted by a combination of lower land values relative to Sydney CBD, access to the M2 and Epping Road, reasonable car parking provisions and an affluent white-collar workforce.
Despite this, he is adamant that it’s success as an employment hub is undermined by its lack of public realm, as it’s a car-orientated centre with large blocks that lack pedestrian amenity and activation of the public domain.
However, there have been major investments in public transport with the NSW State Government opening the Chatswood to Epping Rail Link in 2009 with three stations servicing the centre; North Ryde (east end), Macquarie Park (Centre) and Macquarie University (west end).
Not Just Standing Equal; How Macquarie Park Can Be An Improved Version Of Silicon Valley
The reality of Silicon Valley is that as a city it’s offered significantly more jobs than housing.
The byproduct of this has been a high cost of living, which pushes people who cannot afford homes into outlying areas away from their jobs.
Silicon Valley and Macquarie Park may share parallels as tech and commercial hubs however Macquarie Park has the opportunity to foster a greater sense of community.
Although high-tech and commercially bustling, Silicon Valley has lacked in a vibrant, diverse local community due to a deficiency in housing types.
This is a struggle that faces Macquarie Park however if the right balance can be achieved between residential and commercial then the potential for commercial opportunity and a strong local community can be achieved.
Possible solutions to this could come in the form of a range of housing and employment options, and good public realm to merge in with the expanding commercial amenity.
Public realm acts as a key factor to creating better connections for the people who live and work within Macquarie Park.
Improving public realm is already being addressed and delivered through the UrbanGrowth NSW’s development, Lachlan Line.
Located between the North Ryde and Macquarie Park train stations, Lachlan’s Line is a master-planned community that will become the gateway to the Macquarie Park employment corridor.
The once redundant industrial site will be transformed into a publicly accessible destination that offers modern urban living, with an estimated 2,700 homes and around 5,000 residents living in close proximity to train and bus transport, and the M2 Motorway.
Carlos Frias is one of the country’s leading Urban Designers and a Director at planning and advisory firm Urbis. He has a passion for good places – vibrant, safe, beautiful and viable neighbourhoods. He’s dedicated to helping his clients make places where businesses prosper and people thrive. Highlights include Sydney Science Park, Australia’s first human- scale business park; the renewal of social housing in Telopea; and the master planning for eight of Sydney’s Growth Centre Precincts.