The NSW Government and City of Sydney Council are at loggerheads over a 42-storey residential tower above the Harbourside Shopping Centre, that the council believes will privatise much of Darling Harbour’s prime waterfront.
In what can only be classed as a questionable move by the Berejiklian Government given the state of the city’s night time economy, the Department of Planning is pushing on with the development plans, in line with Mirvac’s $708 million plan to significantly remodel the shopping centre.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and the council believe the tower will restrict Darling Harbour’s potential as a 24-hour tourism precinct, that takes advantage of its positioning and entertainment and cultural facilities.
The impacts of the proposed tower are severe, and do not account for the damage it will cause economically and environmentally. Council planners say they’re unhappy with the plans that contradict the government’s desire to have a thriving nightlife in the CBD and its surrounding areas.
“The City strongly disagrees with the proponent’s assertion that the residential uses would not prejudice the 24-hour operation of the precinct as (the tower) is located a significant distance above ground,” a statement reads.
“The existing noise environment is not compatible for residential use and would diminish the enjoyment of the foreshore and Darling Harbour precinct as a public asset for leisure, recreation, entertainment, culture, education, and commerce.”
Following its initial submission of its plans to overhaul the shopping centre, Mirvac received major backlash due to the size of the high rise tower, and altered their plans to include more public space via the culling of three storeys, but somehow forgot to alter the overall height of the building. The plans were submitted after the NSW Government proposed a draft planning strategy centred around a major redevelopment of Pyrmont, which allows for 170 metre-high buildings where the proposed Harbourside tower is located.
City of Sydney says the proposal is a clear contradiction of the use of Sydney Harbour as a public entity to be enjoyed by visitors and tourists alike.
“The conversion of public land for private use fails to recognise the principles and contradicts the spirit of Sydney Harbour being a public resource that is owned by the public and is to be protected for the public good.”
The NSW Government insists the proposal is beneficial to the Harbourside Shopping Centre, but doesn’t mention the significant issues a high-rise residential building will impart on the harbour’s tourism sector that includes multiple venues and landmarks.
“The proposal supports the revitalisation of an under-performing shopping centre with a vibrant mixed-use development, which would deliver significant public domain and open space improvements.”
“The new-look Harbourside Shopping Centre will provide locals and visitors alike with access to a range of open public spaces as well as improved retail, dining and entertainment options,” says Mirvac’s Chief Investment Officer Brett Draffen, who also failed to acknowledge the major consequences of the residential development if approved.
If the residential high-rise is given the green light, Darling Harbour could face a Kings Cross-like death, where the nightlife area was infamously gutted under the guise of former Premier Mike Baird in the name of prime real estate. The Darling Harbour area has become a jewel in the crown of Sydney’s tourism sector, and high-rise residential developments will kill much of the precinct that is of major economical importance to both the city and its visitors, and create further environmental headaches for the city.
The Independent Planning Commission will decide the fate of the development. It is yet to name the members that will make the final decision. A decision is expected in the coming months.