In my last report I indicated that UrbanGrowth NSW had sought expressions of interest for the renewal of the highly significant White Bay Power Station (WBPS) site. This was an interesting and potentially very positive step – as there were some clear planning parameters set for the large overall site which went some way in protecting the public interest.
However on 9 June UrbanGrowth announced none of the proposals received complied sufficiently with the Government’s evaluation criteria and that as a result, UrbanGrowth would itself become the master developer for the site. The reason given was:
The private sector proposals relied too heavily on residential development to fund decontamination of the Power Station, and doing so would have changed the nature of the site.
The Government has announced its vision is for the WBPS to become Australia’s leading, world class, tech hub. This is a vision which aligns – for once – with the recommendations of the Bays Precinct Community Reference Group.
UrbanGrowth is setting itself high standards for the site and its master planning role:
We have set a very high bar to transform this strategic asset and its surrounds into a tech hub that supports Australia’s knowledge-intensive industries … As the custodians of this heritage-listed building on public land, we owe it to Sydneysiders, the people of New South Wales and future generations to get this right.
We will draw inspiration from New York’s emerging Roosevelt Island development in partnership with industry and the community to create a new home for Sydney’s high-tech sector.
This sounds terrific. We can only hope it is not just the usual UrbanGrowth spruiking.
We will undoubtedly see more short-sighted selling off of the foreshore lands in this master plan – and one can only puzzle as to how the WestConnex plans for that part of the world will sit with this vision. If they achieve something close to their envisaged high tech hub, conserve and repurpose the heritage power station building and ensure public ownership/access of a substantial part of the site and access to the public spaces in the building – as well as a continuous foreshore walk – the public interest might be getting a reasonable look-in.