Sydney Harbour foreshore development slammed

Jennifer Macey, July 8, 2010

ELEANOR HALL: Preliminary work started today on the Barangaroo project on one of Sydney’s last remaining harbour foreshore development sites.

The $6 billion dollar development has been described as one of the most ambitious waterfront projects in Australia.

But it has been controversial from the start with debates over its name, the scope of the development and the design and size of its proposed hotel tower as Jennifer Macey reports:

JENNIFER MACEY: There are a couple of joggers and walkers heading around the harbour foreshore at the Barangaroo site in Sydney between The Rocks and Darling Harbour.

This undeveloped section of Sydney’s harbour foreshore is a 22 hectare concrete slab that used to be a car park. It juts out towards the water from the edge of the CBD.

Those that do stop to talk to The World Today aren’t sure of the scale or details of the development proposals. But they all say they want part of the site left open to the public.

VOX POP 1: I think it’s a great idea to actually do something that the public can use down here. I think you know it is actually a beautiful spot and when Patricks were here you didn’t even realise you know how nice it was.

So if they do something that everyone can use I think that’s a great thing.

VOX POP 2: They haven’t really come out with what they’re going to do yet. And hopefully they’re not just going to like put a bunch of business blocks on it because I think it’s too good a view to waste.

JENNIFER MACEY: The developers Lend Lease have now been given permission to start preparing the Barangaroo site before building can begin.

The CEO of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority John Tabart says a fence has been set up so that the foreshore walk can stay open to the public.

JOHN TABART: So Lend Lease will have access to a portion of the Barangaroo area. The foreshore walk will track around their occupation allowing the public to continue and the cyclists and joggers to continue to use the waterfront walk, albeit interrupted by the construction works in some of its perimeter.

JENNIFER MACEY: While construction work is expected to begin later this year the developers Lend Lease have had to change their concept plan due to public opposition.

The amended project will now have three rather than four office towers and the hotel tower on the edge of the water has been pushed back and lost a few stories.

The development of Sydney’s last remaining prime waterfront real estate has attracted heated debate in the city.

Community groups, town planners, even former prime minister Paul Keating have offered their suggestions for the site.

Architect Paul Berkemeier is from the firm that won the initial design competition.

PAUL BERKEMEIER: Well it’s a totally different development from that which was the prize winning competition entry. And well there’s a lot more buildings that’s going to go up. And the public parklands are very much subservient to the interests of the development itself and the buildings.

JENNIFER MACEY: There’s a lot of discussion about whether or not the cruise ship terminal should be there, how high the buildings are there. What do you make of that considering it is such a significant site for Sydney?

PAUL BERKEMEIER: Well unfortunately everything is really being given away. The public interest is being given away to maximise the return for the development itself, both to the developer and to the government.

So things like the cruise ship terminal which are a valuable piece of public infrastructure are being moved away because they would occupy space otherwise that could be used for development.

JENNIFER MACEY: Last week the National Trust put forward an alternative design plan which would see the cruise passenger terminal kept on the site rather than moving to another part of the harbour.

The trust’s spokesman Scott Woodcock says this design is more in line with the maritime heritage values of the former wharf.

SCOTT WOODCOCK: The best way to interpret the rich and diverse maritime heritage at Millers Point is to retain the cruise ships at Barangaroo.

And Millers Point offers the ideal location for a cruise ship berth. It’s a secure location, probably the most secure location west of the Harbour Bridge. And it’s within 750 metres of the overseas passenger terminal, so within walking distance of The Rocks and light rail will go right to the back door.

JENNIFER MACEY: Architect Paul Berkemeier says he’s lost hope that the site will be subject to significant changes.

PAUL BERKEMEIER: The decisions made to have the single proponent, the single developer, the fact that the development, the increase in the quantum of development has gone up so radically is now, I think it’s locked in.

And I think inevitably it’ll all be fast tracked so that all the commitments are there irreversible before the next state election.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s Paul Berkemeier whose architecture firm won the initial design competition for Barangaroo.

Jennifer Macey reporting


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