Focus shifts to Central and ‘Midtown’

At a forum at UTS on February 1, the NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance, called on the private sector to work with his government to redevelop Sydney’s Central station.

Midtown area – viewed from Cleveland Street bridge towards the City. Photo: Peter Murphy
Midtown area – viewed from Cleveland Street bridge towards the City. Photo: Peter Murphy

The Minister also mildly criticised UrbanGrowth, the state government’s development agency, when he called for an integrated land use and transport strategy for ‘Midtown’ – the area from Goulburn Street to Cleveland Street. He also expressed less enthusiasm for the Bays Precinct development concept.

Minister Constance said that last December he decided to “push Central through”. He defined this site as 20 hectares of the station building and airspace, with “real investment opportunities”. At the same time he wanted any redevelopment to express “strong social values”, including affordable housing. He suggested that it may be possible to move transport control out of Central and replace it with a hotel, retail, housing and office space. He encouraged everyone to “think big”, and realise the impact of the new Metro from the north-west, and the proposed new Metro from Parramatta.

“I want to see a world-class shopping centre and residential area at Central within five years,” he said, after spelling out 10 negative points about Central station from customer surveys. “My friends at MTR Hong Kong say the government should set the direction – but in collaboration with the community,” he said.

When the Minister departed, Maria Atkinson, the Central District Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, put the Midtown concept into the wider concept her Commission has developed for the city. She explained that the Badgerys Creek airport was the overall focus for development, and that a “clean and green” image for Sydney should be projected. In an echo of the Minister, she also expressed criticism of UrbanGrowth.

Ms Atkinson called for feedback on the Draft District Plans that the Commission has put forward. She called for more affordable housing, opposed glass towers and warned of the danger of the Central station area losing its “cool factor”. She also emphasised the need for art and culture sites in urban development, and for accessible artist-run spaces.

Tracy Howe, Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Council of Social Service, one of the hosts of the event, emphasised the importance of including the Aboriginal community in any process, and called for genuinely affordable housing and more social housing.

Speakers from the church and NGO sectors also addressed housing and its affordability. They pointed out that 50,000 new social housing units in Sydney were needed just to keep pace with the projected population increase to 2036, that there is no target for social housing, and that UrbanGrowth has no strategy. No speaker defined what “affordable housing” is, but one speaker, Kate Meyrick of the Hornery Institute, helpfully suggested that the Central station project should be the moment to resolve that definition.

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