One of the first things NSW Premier Mike Baird did when he took charge of the state in the middle of 2015 was announce that a 80-hectare, 5.5km stretch of government-owned, waterfront land, from the Sydney Fish Market to the derelict White Bay Power Station and second cruise liner terminal in Rozelle, would be redeveloped.
The massive urban renewal of the so-called Bays Precinct expected to take 30 years and is estimated to be worth at least $25 billion.
But as every Sydneysider knows, lofty dreams and high ideals are soon diverted by billionaire casino owners and property developers who can’t wait to cash in on the political rhetoric waved in front of voters.
Already there’s been a plan proposed for eight, 20-storey towers at White Bay, the current, temporary site of the exhibition centre. Expect plenty more as developers eye off the prime harbourside land.
This week, more than 60 planners, architects and international experts hand-picked by the Baird Government are heading to the city for the two-day The Bays Precinct Sydney International Summit.
Planning minister Pru Goward says the group will “help guide the precinct’s transformational future”. She went so far as to cite some as “celebrities”.
There’s no doubt there are some heavy hitters in urban transformation in Europe, North America and Asia coming for the summit, which kicks off on Wednesday.
Goward says it will feature new homes, integrated with spaces for recreation, retail, tourism, commercial and maritime use before adding:
We’re giving the experts a blank page so they can truly draw on their inspiration, imagination and experience to get the most out of this area, but there’s one important ‘non-negotiable’ – the community must have free and open access to the waterfront into perpetuity, no matter what shape The Bays Precinct renewal takes.
Goward goes on to say the project “will create a new iconic district that I am confident will be as cherished by Sydneysiders as areas like Darling Harbour and The Rocks”.
That should make the locals wary, given that under her watch, Darling Harbour has been torn down and is being rebuilt with greater urban density just 25 years after it was conceived. Few nations would have the chutzpah to tear down an internationally recognised and award-winning building by an architect as renowned as Philip Cox, just to replace it with a bigger building, but that’s exactly what the NSW government has done with the $1 billion Sydney Exhibition Centre.
Then there’s The Rocks, where Goward has overseen the eviction of public housing tenants, tearing apart the social fabric of the area, as she boasts of selling their homes for $2.5 million each.
The summit is invitation only. The public are not invited to take part or make submissions at this point in time. Their turn will come in February, although some believe that by then it will already be too late.
The City of Sydney Council held a “People’s Summit” on the redevelopment on the weekend and Leichhardt City Council has released its own position paper on what it would like to see happen to the area.
Alexandre Sorrentino, a key adviser to southern Europe’s largest urban renewal project, Cité de la Méditerranée, involving 5km of waterfront linking downtown Marseille with its port district, summed up the task ahead.
“Designing an urban project is a complex alchemy between hope and reality, wishful thinking and economic realities,” he said.
For sure. It would be interesting to show them the original plans to Barangaroo compared to what the city is now getting.
Remember that when you see their final ideas.
For more on the project see UrbanGrowth NSW. In the meantime, here’s a list of key delegates taking part in the Bays Precinct Summit and a potted synopsis of their expertise provided by minister Goward.
Riek Bakker, Netherlands
· Urban planner and landscape architect
· Former Director of Urban Development for City of Rotterdam
· Lead renowned urban renewal projects including Kop van Zuid, Rotterdam and Pius Harbour, Tilburg
Rita Justesen, Denmark
· Architect and Chief Planner for City and Port Development, Copenhagen
· Leading Europe’s largest urban renewal project – Nordhavn, Copenhagen
Joe Berridge, Canada
· Fellow of Urban Strategies at University of Toronto
· Key role in largest Canadian urban renewal project – Toronto Waterfront and London Docklands
Mark Randel, Germany
· Oversaw Neues Museum, Berlin
· Currently working on large urban renewal project in China, transforming a former steel factory into a cultural district
Alexandre Sorrentino, France
· Head of International Relations & Strategic Foresight Marseille’s development agency, Euroméditerranée
· Key role in integrated port and urban renewal project, Cité de la Méditerranée, Marseille
Peter Walker, United States
· 50 years experience as a landscape architect
· Designed National 9/11 Memorial, New York
Robin Hambleton, United Kingdom
· Professor of City Leadership, University of the West of England
· Adviser on city leadership to Royal Commission on Auckland Governance
Bill Browning, United States
· Founding partner of Terrapin Bright Green – environmental strategies for large-scale developments
· Authored several books on sustainable development
John Campbell, Canada
· President & CEO – Waterfront Toronto
· Led $35 billion revitalisation of Toronto Waterfront
Donald Hyslop, United Kingdom
· Thought leader in exploring the role of culture in urban regeneration
· Head of Regeneration & Community Partnerships for the Tate Modern Development Project, London
David Joy, United Kingdom
· Expertise in managing and developing property assets associated with major infrastructure projects
· Director of Kings Cross Central development delivery partnership
Charles Landry, United Kingdom
· Founder of city making think tank Comedia
· Established Creative City Index to assess cities holistically
Peter Newman, Australia
· Director of Sustainability Policy institute at Curtin University
· Oversaw sustainability aspects of Draft Sydney Metropolitan Strategy
Jackie Sadek, United Kingdom
· CEO of UK Regeneration
· Policy advisor on urban regeneration to UK’s Minister for Cities
· Leading planning for proposed Nightingale Quarter urban renewal project
Diane Barrett, United States
· Chief Projects Officer at Office of Denver Mayor
· Oversaw redevelopment of Denver Union Station into multi-modal transport hub and multiple public spaces
Robin Mortimer, United Kingdom
· CEO of Port of London Authority
· Experience in integrating urban renewal around a working port
Pedro Rodrigues de Almeida, Switzerland/US
· Head, Infrastructure & Urban Development Industry, World Economic Forum, Geneva and New York
John Keung, Singapore
· CEO of Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority
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