Why I’m leaving Sydney, the city that actively punishes people for living in it

It was love at first sight when Sydney and I met properly a dozen years ago. I fell hard with the sort of giddy infatuation that makes it easy to overlook the odd flaw or two, and to blithely ignore those flaws even as they crumbled into mighty chasms over the subsequent years.

But now I’m ending things and moving out. And let me be clear: it’s not me, Sydney. It’s you.

But that wasn’t the tipping point – well, not completely.

There’s also the way that the city has been blithely looking to make a quick buck by selling off priceless pieces of its heritage – whether it’s the Sirius Apartments or the Powerhouse Museum – with no plan other than “how swiftly can we convert this public asset into private profit?” It used to horrify me, but that shock has long since curdled from anger to sorrow to deep, unrelenting disgust.

So has the deliberate scuttling of public transport corridors in favour of WestConnex, with the state government essentially imposing a new tax on the western suburbs for the privilege of being able to get to work. That perhaps more than anything shows precisely how little this place cares about the environment, its people or its own future.

There are a lot of little things that have been bugging me for a while. The wholesale destruction of the night time entertainment scene, especially for live music, on exaggerated public safety grounds that just so happened to free up prime real estate at firesale prices to be picked over by the government’s developer mates, was one sign of how little this city cares for the people that live in it.

Even the things that I love about the place aren’t enough any more.

Getting to the beach or the Opera House or the Art Gallery or Taronga has become longer and more difficult with roadworks and the future white elephant light rail. And trying to get about on the overcrowded trains with a toddler usually involves carrying prams up stairs at the station – a massive wheelchair accessibility problem which just about every other Australian city dealt with decades ago – making it comprehensively more hassle than it’s worth. What sort of city penalises its inhabitants for wanting to actively enjoy living there?

The biggest factor, though, was the most predictable. Housing prices – specifically, the spiralling rent increases since buying had long ago ceased to be an option for our two professional income household.

Continue reading on Domain.com.au here.

From Brownfield to Green Walls: The Creation of Central Park

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017.

Dr. Stanley Quek and Nicholas Wolff from Greencliff will be at this year’s Conference, discussing the origins of the awarding winning Central Park project in Sydney, developed by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House.

Working at Frasers in 2005 they identified the outstanding opportunity presented by the then vast Carlton and United Brewery site, bordering Chippendale and possessing a 400m frontage to Broadway, being the main western approach to the CBD. The property was in the process of being vacated and put up for tender by the long-term owner of the site, Fosters Group.

On the property was a ramshackled series of warehouses, administration buildings, powerhouses, a number of former public streets and a collection of mid-19th century terrace houses  – all with varying degrees of heritage significance and spread across some 5.8Ha. Having secured the property, Frasers faced substantial negative sentiment from much of the local community, a revolving door of state planning ministers, little initial support for the project at the local government level and a Part 3A Concept Plan approval in place for a masterplan which had its own unique challenges.

Stanley and Nicholas will outline the strategic thinking and actions –  including a commitment to international design excellence, a full and frank engagement process with stakeholders, a unique marketing strategy and an unwavering commitment to the inclusion of leading environmental sustainability initiatives and major public art installations – all of which led ultimately, to reversing the negative sentiment and turning the project into the extraordinary success it is today.

This year the International Urban Design Conference offers optional tours available on Wednesday 15 November. These will include visiting two of the precincts that have been designed and built for the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast in April 2018.

Find out more here.

Liveability and Water in Sydney – A Clean River is a Fun River

When I presented at the International Urban Design Conference last year, it seems a lecture by an unknown urban water guy wasn’t exactly considered a “must see” session amongst the throng of planners and designer types.

Still, it appears that there has been enough interest in the slide pack that I have been asked for a chaser on where we are up to with liveability and urban water. I want to use the same “liveability game changers” from my presentation. So for this first post (one more to come) I’ll stick to “a clean river is a fun river” in this unashamedly Sydney focussed post.

Iconic waterways have always been essential to the Sydney-ness of Sydney. But as the city progresses west, small waterways previously ignored and hidden within a tangle of light urbanism, are becoming important landscape features. They can provide open space to break up density and allow recreation zones, contributing to the wellbeing of communities whilst reducing reliance on accessing Sydney’s beaches.

Phillip Birtles, Sydney Water

For the first time, waterways and city welfare are being recognised in city planning in Sydney. Each of the six Draft District Plans released by the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) in December 2016 have sustainability targets that include waterway improvement.

Our Living River is an impressive collaboration of local and state government who have set the goal to bring swimming back to the Parramatta River. Their 2025 Masterplan work includes water quality, urban ecology, community survey, risk and economic assessments to detail a nuanced view of what “swimming in the river” means. From splash sites to offline pools to open swimming, all the options are being considered in some leading design work. This project is one to watch and is already influencing town planning policy for this region.

In the West, South Creek has emerged as “a key organising design element” for the GSC’s western city. Sydney has experience organising development around estuaries (like the harbour) but we haven’t done so well with small streams in suburbia that don’t have waterviews. It will be a true challenge to bring the South Creek vision to life. An exciting time for urban designers and water professionals alike.

Stay tuned for more next post exploring “all the water we need is already in the city” and “healthy communities are connected to their water”.

Article supplied by Phillip Birtles, Urban Water and Waterways Manager at Sydney Water

Sydney set for $4b-plus hotel developments

There is a wave of new hotel development set to change the landscape of the Sydney market, with the opening of the International Convention Centre considered the catalyst.

According to the Tourism Accommodation Australia, the new development phase “will set up the city for a decade-long tourism boom”. Already $2.3 billion of hotel projects have been approved for the Sydney city area, with a further $1.9 billion of projects proposed and in advanced stages of planning.

In the Sydney city area, almost 3000 rooms are scheduled to open during the next four years, with more developments in the pipeline. Darling Harbour, where the ICC is located, will be the most in demand for the hoteliers who will cater for the new events that are set to head Sydney’s way in coming years. The $700 million Ribbon Hotel and Residences project, which will include a W Hotel, is under construction on the former IMAX site and the Ovolo 1888 was created out of a former waterfront wool store.

The new Sofitel hotel at Darling Harbour is due to open in 2017.
The new Sofitel hotel at Darling Harbour is due to open in 2017.

On the city side of Darling Harbour, Australia’s largest hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton, is adding 222 rooms to increase its inventory to 892 rooms. The new rooms will open at the end of the year, following the rebranding of the hotel to Hyatt Regency.

The focal point for the dramatic hotel growth is Darling Harbour, where one of the largest new hotel developments in more than 20 years, Accorhotels’ Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, will open in the final quarter of 2017, adjacent to the ICC.

Hotel development has also extended to the Greater Sydney region with Parramatta and western Sydney expected to receive up to 10 new hotels, including pioneering 5-star hotels, and there has been significant new hotel development in Bondi, at Sydney Airport Macquarie Park and Chatswood in the past year.

Australia’s peak accommodation body, Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA), says the unprecedented development boom comes after a hotel building “drought” that followed the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and with the opening of the ICC, growth in air capacity and massive expansion of tourism infrastructure across the city, the right demand drivers were in place to ensure the latest development phase would be sustainable in the long term.

Read more.

Defence Housing Australia Launches ‘Arkadia’

Defence Housing Australia (DHA) has launched Arkadia, a $60 million residential development in Alexandria set to redefine inner city living in Sydney. The design of the new development aims to combine contemporary apartment living with lush, green spaces and distinctive resident facilities.

Located at 18 Huntley Street, Arkadia will comprise 152 modern apartments and terraces designed by architects DKO. DHA plans to retain over half of the dwellings while the remaining 71 studio, one bedroom and three bedroom configurations, measuring 42 to 110 square metres, will be offered for sale to the public. Many of the apartments will offer views with northern outlooks to the city, while the southern outlook is across Sydney Park.

arkadia

Arkadia will comprise four separate apartment blocks over six levels and parking for 124 cars, 10 motorcycles and 176 bicycles, making it one of the largest bicycle storage facilities in the area. Each block has its own unique style of patterned brickwork in the foyer and this design feature is carried through into the bathroom floors of each building’s apartments.

Extensive rooftop gardens and pocket parks feature communal vegetable patches, barbeques and covered dining pods boasting city views. There are also plans for an apiary and chicken coop on the roof. Residents can also benefit from a communal music room, and a ground floor café.

DHA Acting Managing Director Jan Mason, said the vision behind Arkadia was to bring something new to the Sydney property market, with unique architecture that blends with communal vegetable gardens, barbeques and dining pods.

Mason said Arkadia is not meant to simply be a home, but a village lifestyle for its residents. DKO aspired to create a sense of community with Arkadia. With iconic design, Arkadia’s grand brick arches facilitate the movement of people through several key pedestrian links, while scattered gardens, pocket parks and a ground floor café encourage interaction between residents and visitors alike.

All apartments feature open living areas with a spacious galley kitchen, luxurious bathrooms, walk-in laundries and ample storage. Some apartments have street-facing private courtyards and others feature outdoor terraces with spectacular views of Sydney Park and the city skyline.

DKO has designed the interiors palette to reflect understated city chic and buyers will have a choice between Cool and Warm schemes. The Cool scheme features a white kitchen and fresh, crisp tones while the Warm scheme kitchen is set in a more natural, shaded timber veneer.

Colliers International Director Ian Bennett said there was already some early market interest in Arkadia, but this was no surprise because of what it offers.

“We’re seeing a mix of young professionals, couples and families attracted to the serene location by Sydney Park,” he said.

“Buyers have been drawn to the flexible lifestyle that comes with modern apartment living and the opportunity to combine that with open green spaces so close to the Sydney CBD.

Construction is scheduled to commence next year, with completion expected by June, 2018.

Read more.