NSW’s largest new urban renewal precinct?

Located within 2km of Sydney’s CBD, future planning for the Bays Precinct is progressing as NSW’s largest new urban renewal precinct. The Bays Precinct consists of over 90 hectares of Government-owned land and includes major sites of the Sydney Fish Market, Blackwattle Bay, White Bay, Glebe Island, Rozelle Bay and the Rozelle rail yards.

The Precinct has historically been used since European settler times for various industrial and commercial trades including maritime trade, abattoirs, a timber mill, grain silos, rail yards, a car import terminal and the former White Bay Power Station, which was decommissioned in 1983. Most recently a new super yacht marina was opened in Rozelle Bay in 2000 and the White Bay International Passenger Terminal was opened in 2013.

Precinct Transformation

A new plan, submitted in October 2015 by the NSW Government, proposes to fundamentally transform the entire precinct over the next 20 years.

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Opportunities for the Bays Precinct

Urban Growth NSW was appointed to head a whole-of-government approach to revitalise the Precinct in November 2014 and released ‘The Bays Precinct Sydney Transformation Plan’ in October this year. The Transformation Plan is the Government’s blueprint in order to “drive an internationally competitive economy, through the creation of great destination on Sydney Harbour that will transform Sydney, New South Wales and Australia.” The Plan proposes seven key actions for the Precinct, which are:

•Divide the Bays Precinct into eight distinct by linked Destinations;

• Introduce the Bays Waterfront Promenade;

• Recover and repurpose the White Bay Power Station;

• Create the Bays Market District incorporating a rejuvenated Sydney Fish Market;

• Include Wentworth Park in the Program Area;

• Work towards repurposing Glebe Island Bridge; and

• Introduce water quality initiatives in the Bays Waterways.

New Partnerships?

One of the Government’s stated intents is to deliver the Precinct transformation in partnership with the public and business. Over 200 submissions from the community and urban transformation specialists from around the world informed the Plan and their ideas contributed to the proposed mix of uses including public space, housing and employment. In addition, a reference group is being formed comprising community, business and interested organisations to assist with implementation of the Plan.

At the same time as release of the Plan, Premier Mike Baird and Planning Minister Rob Stokes announced a Request for Proposals process, for the adaptive re-use of the White Bay Power Station as a “hub for knowledge-intensive industries.” The delivery of this major piece of infrastructure will be a collaboration between government and business.

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Artists Impression of revitalised White Bay Power Station

Innovative ideas

The rejuvenation of the Bays Precinct has been informed by a number of innovative ideas and will create substantial benefits for both the local community and the wider NSW and Australian economies. Development of the Bays Waterfront Promenade will deliver a continuous harbour waterfront to be enjoyed by the public from Balmain to Pyrmont as a major public destination.

The Sydney Fish Market has the potential to transform into the centrepiece of a Bays Market District, an expanded marketplace for fresh food that could deliver more than $4 billion to the NSW economy. The new Bays Market District is also envisaged to connect to Wentworth Park and provide mixed activities including local recreation.

Rozelle Bay and the Rozelle Rail Yards may introduce a new range of land uses including affordable housing, public spaces and employment. Light rail could be introduced along the Glebe Island Bridge to provide essential connectivity and accessibility throughout the precinct.

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Artist’s impression of potential light rail along Glebe Island Bridge

Public and Industry Response

Initial responses to the Plan have been cautiously optimistic, particularly from the technology industry. However, they also acknowledged that start-up industries would require ongoing assistance and support from Government and major industry companies. In addition, the chief executive of Urban Growth has acknowledged the need for appropriate transport solutions to the precinct in order to ensure its social and economic viability. This sentiment was also reflected by the Leichhardt Council Mayor Darcy Byrne; who emphasised the necessity for mass transit to support the precinct.

UDIA NSW chief executive praised the collaborative approach taken by the Government in formulating the Transformation Plan. However, the Urban Taskforce cautioned that a technology hub on Glebe Island and White Bay would need to be tested by market interest and should include residential development in order to create “central living districts”. Local community groups have been cautious with respect to the Plan, voicing concerns about ensuring public access and the potential privatisation of space to maximise return on the land at the expense of the community.

Although more work is required – particularly in relation to essential transport infrastructure, the transformation of the Bays Precinct should be fundamentally seen as a major new contribution to Sydney’s future as a liveable, innovative and prosperous city that can house 1.6 million additional people and provide the forecasted 689,000 new jobs by 2031 in A Plan for Growing Sydney.

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Artists impression of the Bays Promenade at Glebe Island




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