Sydney Architecture Images- Green Square Precinct

Crown Square ‘former ACI site’




782-822 Bourke St, Waterloo. It spans an area of 11.25 hectares and is bounded by Crescent Street, Lachlan Street, South Dowling Street and by Bourke Street.




Millennium Moderne


Reinforced concrete frame. Rendered blockwork cladding.


Multi-residential Apartment Building
  View from an apartment on Bourke Street looking east to Moore Park.
  A little to the right.
  28 Crystal Street.
  9 Crystal Street.
  6 Lachlan Street.
  6 Lachlan Street - view south along Gadigal Avenue.
Crown Square- an urban consolidation project
– 18/10/2010Posted in: Heritage, Master Planning, Residential, Urban Design, Urban Planning


The Crown Square development is located at 782-822 Bourke St, Waterloo. It spans an area of 11.25 hectares and is bounded by Crescent Street, Lachlan Street, South Dowling Street and by Bourke Street. It has been developed by Meriton Apartments (referred to as Meriton), a leading residential development company in Australia. Meriton began the massive redevelopment in 1999.

The Crown Square development was previously the ACI glassworks site. In council documents and other material related to the development, it is often referred to as the ‘former ACI site’. Godden Mackay Logan, a Heritage Consultant firm, was appointed in 1997 by Meriton Apartments to conduct a comprehensive heritage study on the site. An earlier Heritage Assessment by the firm recommended that a thorough recording of the historical elements on the site be completed prior to any demolition works.

The ACI site consisted of buildings from the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company, the Mauri Bros Chemical Manufacturing Company and the Crown Crystal Complex. In the 1960’s there were 33 buildings comprising the ACI glassworks complex (Godden Mackay Logan). The archival recording was conducted in accordance with the NSW Heritage Office and the South Sydney (Heritage Conservation) Draft Development Control Plan 1998.

The aim of the DCP was to provide “detailed information on the appropriate management of heritage items and components of conservation areas within the South Sydney Local Government Area, expanding on the statutory requirements of the Heritage LEP 1996“ (South Sydney (Heritage Conservation) Development Control Plan 1998, p. 1). The plan also added 51 conservation areas throughout the city including the ACI Site Conservation Area.

Heritage Significance

Most of the 33 original buildings on the site were eventually demolished, with the exception of the 1938 Administration Building, the AGM art deco building on the south-west corner which was later refurbished by the Sydney City Toyota dealership, and part of a building on the corner of South Dowling Street and Crescent Street.

According to the South Sydney LEP 1998 (amended May 2005), the ACI Site is a Conservation Area, bordered by Waterloo Crescent St, South Dowling St, Lachlan St and Bourke St. The following list is an indication of what remains on the site today:

Storage Building facade two storey Inter-War Functionalist style, c. 1959
AGM building, four storey Inter-War Functionalist industrial building with six storey
Art Deco tower motif, c. 1938
Administrative Offices, two storey Inter-War Free Classical style commercial building, c.1938-1940
Grissell Building, c.1850s
Power House Complex, including brick chimney, c.1937-1950 (see photographs below)
Remnant machinery (which has been restored by Meriton and is displayed within the development to preserve the industrial significance of the site)
Site archaeological features from c.1900 onwards

Source- with special thanks to

Development Timeline

The purpose of this timeline is to demonstrate briefly, the stages that led to the final development of Crown Square. The more recent development changes made by Meriton, between 2004 and 2006, are interesting to note because they reflect how the company has responded to the fluctuating property market.

The following information was gathered from a range of sources, including minutes from council meetings, Clover Moore’s website, the Statement of Environmental Effects – Stage 6 of the ACI site redevelopment prepared by Meriton in 2005, and from an urban planner at City of Sydney Council. Some information also comes from Council’s archivist.


Godden Mackay Logan was appointed by Meriton Apartments to conduct a comprehensive heritage study on the former ACI site. This involved archived recording, photographic records of the buildings and their architectural features, and interviews with former workers on the site. Following completion of the study in 1998, Meriton was then allowed to commence demolition works on the site.


Masterplan for the former ACI site was prepared by Meriton.


February 8: Clover Moore, Member for Bligh, presented a petition to the South Sydney Council Committee meeting with 120 signatures from residents. The petition demanded council to defer its decision on the development for a month. This would allow enough time to hold a public meeting for residents about the potential traffic implications caused by the development.

February 10: The site masterplan submitted by Meriton Apartments was approved and South Sydney Council endorsed a maximum floor space ratio of 2.5:1 and a variety of other height restrictions.

March 24: At an Ordinary Council meeting of South Sydney City Council, Meriton’s development application to demolish the remaining façade of Building 34A on Bourke Street was assessed. A range of conditions applied to the demolition, including appropriate removal of demolition material from the site. Council granted consent according to the conditions because “Granting unconditional consent would be likely to adversely affect the amenity of the neighbourhood, including adverse effects relating to traffic and parking congestion, and this would not be in the public interest”.

The following resolution was also suggested but was subsequently rejected; “that the application be refused as it does not agree with the Green Square Master Plan” (Appendix, Ordinary Council Meeting, 24 March 1999). See Appendix for extract of meeting dealing with Development Application (U98-01111).

September 8: At an Ordinary Council meeting of South Sydney City Council, Meriton’s masterplan refinements were considered. Council made it clear to Meriton that it disagreed with their proposal for a bridge adjacent to a building. Also a resolution was made that ”this adoption of the Masterplan does not reflect an acceptance by Council of the valuation figures detailed in the report by the Director of Planning and Building dated 27 August 1999.” (Appendix, Ordinary Council Meeting, September 8 1999). See Appendix for extract of meeting dealing with Masterplan Refinements (2010853).


September 9: Meriton submitted DA to erect 5 new residential buildings for Stage 2 of the development.


March 21: At a hearing of the Eastern Suburbs Bus Review in the NSW Parliament, Clover Moore raised the concerns of Redfern residents, who attended a community meeting in opposition of the latest proposed bus routes and services. She attacked South Sydney Council and the State Transit Authority saying;

“In the case of the new road from the ACI site in Redfern, I believe that the continued development of this proposal, in the face of community opposition, amounts to the South Sydney council and State Transit Authority bureaucracies thumbing their noses at local residents. There has been consistent community opposition to this road whenever it has been proposed.”

Ms Moore indicated that due to the Green Square redevelopment, there would be an additional 20,000 to 30,000 people in the already congested area. She stated that planning for the increased traffic and bus volumes was not being considered properly.

October 29: In a letter to the South Sydney City Council General Manager, Clover Moore, argued against the proposed amendments for the ACI Masterplan prepared by Meriton. Residents from the adjacent Moore Park Gardens residential complex complained that the proposed increased heights would cause them to “suffer a degradation of their amenity” (Clover Moore, 2001).


May 23: Clover Moore sent a letter of complaint to South Sydney City Council, Minister for Transport, and Minister for Planning, dealing with issues related to the impacts of the development. These included; managing the increased traffic flow, implementation of an improved public transport network and establishing access links to the local amenities surrounding the site.


November 23: DA for the construction of 3 residential apartment buildings.


July 29: Development consent (U03/00927) was granted to Meriton for the construction of a mixed use development, including 242 residential units, 255 car spaces and 70sqm of retail floor space. The development is currently under construction.

December 23: Section 96 modification (03/00927A) refused Meriton to increase the amount of car spaces from 255 to 314.

December: Section 96 modification (03/00927C) allowed Meriton to amend conditions with regards to Section 94 contributions and a change of use for 15 one bedroom units (or SOHO units) to retail.


March 18: Section 96 modification (03/00927D) Meriton was permitted to change the mix of units to 227 residential and 16 retail shops.

August 29: Section 96 modification (03/00927G) permission to convert study rooms into bedrooms, convert 15 retail tenancies back to SOHO apartments, reduce the number of apartments.


January 12: Development application D/2005/1989 lodged for the change of use for apartment blocks C and D in Site 6 into serviced apartments.

Planning Insights to the Decision Making Process

The decision making process of the Crown Square development was not an easy one. In fact, it was carried out differently to the ordinary way in which a submission of a development application to council would be completed (e.g. by a house owner). For example, prior to Meriton’s initial DA, they prepared a masterplan for the entire former ACI site.

This graphically expressed their vision for the future development of Crown Square, including the footprints of the proposed residential apartment buildings, access networks, and some landscaped features which were illustrated in the 10-stage development. Only once the masterplan was completed did Meriton submit a DA. This was approved by council at the beginning of 1999.

Due to the size of the development, Meriton enabled council to accurately assess their DA with the assistance of a masterplan. Meriton has been in the business for over 40 years, and they know how to speed up the decision making process, especially for such a large-scale development as this. According a Meriton source, they did not gain any special provisions for the development from council, and needed to prepare a detailed ‘Stage 1 Masterplan’, which consisted of all the details associated with the development.

There was no apparent final decision because Meriton sequentially submitted DA’s relevant to the different stages of the development. For instance, Meriton submitted a DA for the third stage, gained approval, then submitted a fourth DA associated with the next development stage. Although in the case where council rejected their DA, Meriton had to amend the DA to satisfy council’s requirements, and only then did they resubmitted it for another assessment.

The decision by Meriton to demolish most of the existing 33 buildings on the site for the massive redevelopment was somewhat controversial. Some of the heritage buildings on the site were not significant enough to preserve . However, some mechanical equipment was restored and is now displayed within the development.

In 2004 Meriton applied to change the usage of the residential apartments to serviced apartments. The reason for the change was because they overestimated the demand for residential apartments. This was a grave error by the urban planners and researchers that investigated the housing demand in the area.

Between 2004 and 2006 we can clearly identify Meriton’s misunderstanding of the local property market and the breakdown in their planning process. In 2004 they proposed to construct 255 car spaces, but five months later unsuccessfully proposed 314. The question arises; why not propose 314 car spaces in the original DA? Obviously, they wished to increase the attractiveness of the residential apartment building by offering more car spaces, and subsequently increase the occupancy rate. The alternative answer could be that someone in Meriton made a mistake, although it is highly unlikely.

Why did Meriton resubmit a DA and why didn’t they just leave it? The answer to this question is more difficult to assess because one would need to look into the mind of the largest residential apartment developer in Australia.


‘Meritonisation’ is a new phrase and phenomenon in the property industry, coined by professionals in response to Meriton’s vast redevelopment in Sydney. It has also been used in NSW Parliament, including discussions related to the Sydney Olympic Park Authority Bill (3/7/2001). In 1999, even Angela Pontifix, a previous FBE student, wrote her thesis on ‘The Meritonisation of Sydney’. Peter FitzSimons, a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald referred to this phrase in an article titled: “Gridlock? It’s almost enough to make you do your block”. In his typical witty writing style, he commented on the overdevelopment of Sydney and how it is impacting the urban environment and society.

FitzSimons wrote: “A friend talks of the “Meritonisation” of Sydney, which he defines “as the practice of filling up every bit of available land with as many purely utilitarian apartments as the law will allow”. And it isn’t, of course, all Meriton’s doing. All over the city in the past few years, the Meriton “look” has started to take over, with buildings rising to the skies and spreading to the boundaries of every block. Around and about, there is a bare minimum of anything green that might get in the way of those oh-so-valuable views” (SMH 28/11/02).

It is evident that Crown Square is yet another example of Meriton’s ‘Meritonisation’ of Sydney, particularly Waterloo and the Green Square district. Their swift decision making behaviour, has epitomised the character of the largest residential apartment developer in Australia.


Crown Square may be considered as a positive contribution to the rise of residential property in the Sydney city. This being said, the initial decisions made for this development planted the seed for its eventual completion. It is believed that the former ACI site served no real purpose after production of goods on the site ceased. This being said, the development can also be criticised for its massive bulk and density in an already existing congested concrete jungle.

In the past decade it has become a common practice to rezone industrial land for residential purposes. The inner Sydney suburbs of Alexandra, Redfern and Waterloo, used to be major districts for industrial activity in the early 20th Century. The land on which desolate factories and buildings once existed, high rise apartment buildings now stand.

The decision to develop Crown Square was the best possible method to utilise the former ACI site. Otherwise the dilapidated industrial buildings would have stayed on the site unused. Meritonisation of Sydney is beneficial for those individuals that would prefer to live closer to their place of work and for an affordable price. Although it is criticised for pressuring the market into highly dense areas that may potentially become the future slums of Sydney. The personalities of resident in a development such as Crown Square, can be at risk due to the overcrowding nature. It is important to acknowledge that urban renewal projects assist the council in creating better built environments and how they benefit residential and commercial sectors.