NewsWaterloo redevelopment

‘Artist’s impression’ of new Metro Quarter fails to impress

The distribution of a 15-page booklet on the new Waterloo Metro Quarter concept and two government-run information sessions have caused some anguish among local resident groups after the NSW government separated the Metro Quarter’s progress from the redevelopment of the adjacent Waterloo Estate.

Development of the planned Waterloo Metro is being fast-tracked by Transport for NSW and UrbanGrowth NSW to make way for up to 700 new apartments that will be spread across three towers on the 1.9-hectare metro site, at heights of up to 29 storeys. The hastening in project delivery is intended to ensure that residential blocks, retail spaces and community infrastructure, including a public plaza and open green space, are completed before Sydney Metro services commence in 2024.

A community meeting arranged by REDWatch with representatives from UrbanGrowth NSW and Transport for NSW, and another meeting with representatives from local residents groups and Greens MP Jenny Leong, have raised concerns over both the consultation process and built-form outcomes for the Metro Quarter site.

Geoff Turnbull, spokesperson for REDWatch, is critical of the government’s reliance on “pretty pictures” that fail to outline any detailed design outcomes, along with the “tick-the-box” attitude to community consultation that, he says, causes people to lose faith in the planning system.

Specifically, Mr Turnbull is critical that no options-testing will be undertaken for the Metro Quarter and of the government’s disregard of undertakings that would have allowed social housing tenants to be better informed contributors to the redevelopment of the Metro Quarter.

“That’s all gone out the window,” Turnbull told residents at The Factory Community Centre in Waterloo.

Summaries of nine key technical studies for the Waterloo State Significant Precinct, yet to be released, which investigate important aspects of the development like social sustainability, will now be worked through with tenants only after the formal exhibition period has closed for the Metro Quarter development.

Design aspects of the proposed Metro Quarter that have raised questions among observers relate to the high density proposed for the site, overshadowing of adjacent development and green space and issues stemming from the metro station’s location on a floodplain.

Genevieve Murray of Future Method Studio says the impact of overshadowing on Alexandria Park and the public square on the Metro Site are “big issues that can’t be reversed”. She says, “Winter sun and wellbeing that comes with it are being put secondary to profit.”

The artist’s impressions of the site contain a public plaza with two levels, the lower containing open green space and developed trees. Yet with the 29, 25 and 23 storey towers surrounding the plaza it is questionable that such green space is achievable with limited solar access.

Philip Thalis, a City of Sydney councillor who attended the REDWatch meeting, says that breaking the Metro Quarter off from the rest of the estate redevelopment is bad planning. “[It’s] a contiguous part of the city, a socially disadvantaged part that needs special care.”

Speaking to the SSH, Cr Thalis cited the lack of multiple station entries at the north and south ends of the block and west of Botany Road, a lack of information about pedestrian crossing improvements and the “very poor” public plaza as key flaws in the concept revealed so far.

The announcement of the fast-tracked process for the Waterloo Metro Quarter is now the second time residents have been caught off-guard since the project’s announcement. The first was the original letter to residents in December 2015 announcing the redevelopment of the Waterloo Estate and the Waterloo Metro, then touted as the “catalyst” for the renewal of public housing in Waterloo.

“Nothing has changed since colonisation,” says Genevieve Murray, “The state government is operating in the interests of the few at the expense of the many.”

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