What would be Sydney’s biggest urban renewal program since the Olympics has been announced, with the world’s best urban designers set to be invited for a summit later this year.

The NSW government announced that more than five kilometres of waterfront land on Darling Harbour was up for development.

New housing and areas for recreation, retail, tourism, commercial and maritime use will all be on the table for consideration at the international summit to be held on 20 November this year.

In an interview with Architecture & Design, NSW AIA president Joe Agius emphasised that although the news of the summit might be a pivotal step for the precinct’s eventual development, it is only the beginning of what will be a lengthy process.

“This is just the beginning of the process of consultation, information gathering and consideration of the issues before the proposition is even put on the table,” Agius said.

The urban renewal proposal will include the underutilised and degraded waterfront areas in and around Blackwattle Bay, the Sydney Fish Market, Rozelle Bay, Rozelle Rail Yards, and the heritage-listed White Bay Power Station.

^UrbanGrowth says it will be largest and most high profile urban development project in Australia.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said he has asked world leaders and the greatest minds in the field of city building and urban regeneration to attend the international summit.

Agius said he was not concerned this would mean international players will preclude local presence at the summit.

“An international summit that would obviously include international experts but it will not preclude local expertise,” he said.

“In fact I am quite certain that it will be the case that local players are heavily involved.”

Agius applauded the concept and says he is optimistically anticipating a summit that involves a large variety of experts including strategic planners, economic experts, social planners and sustainability experts:

“I am anticipating there will be a range of experts and experience covering the full spectrum of issues that need addressing,” he said.  

“The important thing is that there is a high degree of consultation from people other than experts; as in the community. There is a full range of stakeholders in this project, it is a very significant and strategic piece of public land and there needs to be a very broad consultation.”

Similarly, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National President, Mark Frisby has called on the summit to consider his profession’s expertise on the subject of urban renewal.

“The project is an exciting proposal for Sydney and the Bay Precinct is one of the logical areas for urban renewal within Sydney,” he said in an interview with Architecture & Design.

“A well designed urban renewal project respects the former site history and surrounding context as well as providing the opportunity to demonstrate design innovation in areas such as sustainability.  Successful Australian and international projects of a similar nature successfully retain elements of the past and respectfully combine them with development.”

The Urban Taskforce also weighed in on the conversation by welcoming the announcement of the international summit, but like Agius emphasised the importance of local consultation.

“While international experts are a good way to begin a project we also need to build in local experts who understand the climate and character of Sydney Harbour,” they said.

In closing our conversation Agius emphasised the role that government needs to play in the project to ensure that the best possible outcome, one that will please all stakeholders including the community, can be achieved.

“It is important that the government does take the leadership role in it, does involve multiple players in the development,” he said.

“There should be many developers and many architects, both locals an internationals to ensure that it’s an authentic part of the city.”

See the flythrough video of the Bays Precinct proposal Below:

Image and Video: NSW Sydney Foreshore Authority.