Hassell’s revamped plans to redevelop Sydney’s Imax site has been recommended for approval by Planning with conditions relating to issues raised during consultation.

The development, which proposes to construct a new 25-storey hotel and serviced apartment complex between two busy expressways, has been a polarising development to say the least, and has been through a number of design changes.

The story of The Ribbon development, so called because of its original design form, began in 2012 when owners of the IMAX Theatre in Darling Harbour announced they wanted to replace the building with a new office tower more than double its current height.

Hassell’s original proposal met this brief however it was soon redesigned in 2013 on account of overshadowing concerns on the nearby playground in Darling Quarter.

Ribon “take two” was met with varied opinions, applauded by some for its originality and unusual design, while dismissed by others who felt it was a gross overdevelopment for the location.

Regardless of opinion, the design was recommended for approval with conditions from planning, one being that its façade reflectivity be revisited and addressed so that the building does not impact on the safety of vehicles using the Western Distributor.

Ribbon “take three” ensued and Hassell’s new plans showed significant changes to the old design, most notably the alteration of the building’s eastern, western and roof curtain wall. But while the reflectivity of the glazing and the building’s look were contentious issues they were not the only ones expressed during the public submissions process. 

Take 1, 2 and 3: The timeline of the Ribbon development in artist impressions.

The City of Sydney for one was mostly concerned with the project’s encroachment on and treatment of public space. Their objection to the development was based on 52 concerns, but they placed emphasis on the project’s encroachment into the public domain to the north and west of the building as particularly concerning, suggesting it will reduce pedestrian circulation around the south-eastern corner of Darling Harbour, especially during high-use events.  

Another concern for the City of Sydney, one shared by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, was the provision of serviced apartments within the building. There were concerns that effect of strata subdivision of the serviced apartments will be to render them as defacto residential apartments which is contrary to the conditions of lease and the public intentions for the site since it was first created.

A separate public submission from a City of Sydney council member also raised concerns about the building’s environmental credentials.

While The Ribbon take three has now been recommended for approval by Planning, it will come with the following conditions that do address some of the aforementioned concerns:

  • a legal restriction prohibiting permanent residential use of the building, consistent with City of Sydney Council’s standard practice which would also be placed on serviced apartments if individually sold in the future
  • certification for the building façade glazing to achieve high-levels of noise protection and glare reduction for pedestrians and motorists on the Western Distributor
  • a requirement for the building to achieve a five star Green Star rating certification from Green Building Council of Australia within two years of the final occupation certificate
  • a management and operational plan for the car stacker, loading dock, valet service and porte de cochere will be prepared in consultation with government agencies before a construction certificate can be issued
  • a Road Safety Audit and Traffic Impact Assessment be prepared in consultation with government agencies before a construction certificate can be issued
  • a requirement to provide minimum footpath width on the building’s western side improving safety and accessibility for pedestrians.

Planning has supported both the look and scale of the development.