Controversial proposal for Sydney's Domain precinct prioritises cultural infrastructure | Kanebridge News
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Controversial proposal for Sydney’s Domain precinct prioritises cultural infrastructure

A bold plan for Sydney’s Domain carpark including four theatres has been aired but opponents question the location at the cost of valuable city greenspace.

By Robyn Willis
Thu, Sep 8, 2022 10:33amGrey Clock 2 min

A bold proposal to redevelop the Domain carpark into a performing arts precinct has been released, prompting a mixed response.

The plan put forward by leading architectural firm Grimshaw for four performance halls, including a 2,500 seat theatre, Indigenous cultural centre and rehearsal space would also include a revitalisation of the Woolloomooloo precinct, taking in the arterial William Street and older social housing.

Grimshaw managing partner Andrew Cortese said the scheme sought to address some of the transport incursions introduced over the past 30 years including the Eastern Distributor and Domain Tunnel through the creation of green roofs for the cultural facilities and landscaping following the natural slope of the land from the Domain down to Sir John Young Crescent.

“The second and much larger green space will be located on a land bridge to be built over the exit of the Domain Tunnel, presently on the doorstep of the new Sydney Modern gallery, covering this ugly roadway with a land bridge which can accommodate all the playing fields now residing on top of the Domain Car Park” Mr Cortese said.

Mr Cortese said while cities like Melbourne and international neighbours such Singapore, Kowloon and Shenzhen were investing in cultural infrastructure, Sydney was falling short.

However, NSW Cities Minister Rob Stokes said with city greenspace at a premium, there were concerns about development of this site, suggesting an arts precinct would be better located in Pyrmont, or placed closer to transport hubs in Western Sydney.

Mr Cortese said those sites had been considered but that the Domain precinct represented the best position in a post Covid CBD environment.

“The principal reason for the location is to reverse the trend of the City of Sydney tending to situate world-class cultural facilities facing the harbour – our traditional location for all our major cultural institutions – and actually situate them in the community of the city and in a vibrant, connected precinct,” he said.

In explaining why a location further west was not chosen, Mr Cortese said Grimshaw fully supported the creation of new cultural infrastructure in Western Sydney but until the opening of West Metro in 2030 there was very little in the way of public transport, aside from heavy rail.

Grimshaw has offices around the world, including Sydney, and is responsible for a wide range of influential public projects, with works spanning the arts, education and infrastructure in the US, China, the UK and more.

A development of this size of the Domain carpark would expect to take a couple of decades or more to come to fruition.

Grimshaw global practice lead for cities, Dr Tim Williams, said as Sydneysiders adopted a hybrid work model, the notion of CBDs being primarily about industry needed revisiting.

“We need to reimagine, revitalise and represent these precincts because with hybrid working now the norm much of their economic rationale and vibrancy has dissipated,” Dr Williams said. “Across the world we are seeing on the one hand stranded retail, office and hospitality assets but also initiatives to reinvent a city core’s attractors so as to ‘earn the commute’: that is, to give people in the suburbs special new reasons to come to town. 

“The kind of culture-led renewal we propose for East Sydney – as single use CBDs transition to more mixed use ‘central experience districts’ – will be crucial to the success of this strategy and give new reasons for international visitors to come too.”

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Lecturer in RMIT’s School of Property Construction and Project Management Dr Woon-Weng Wong said the combination of consecutive interest rate rises aimed at combating high inflation, higher property prices during the pandemic and cost of living pressures such as the end of the fuel excise that occurred this week made it increasingly difficult for those looking to enter or upgrade to find the right path.

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