"Why I’m angry about the city I love"

"Why I’m angry about the city I love"

I’m here because I’m angry, says Dr Farrelly. I shouldn’t say that. Research shows that people don’t like ‘angry’, especially from a woman. But I am saying it. Because it’s true. And tonight is about truth.

I’m angry at being lied to.  All the time. Routinely.  By people who have a duty of care. About the city I love.

I’ve lived in Sydney almost thirty years. And for the first time I feel that Sydney – the Sydney I love – is under genuine threat.

I tried to leave. A few months ago I sold my house. Moved away. I lasted three weeks. When I came back I found myself falling back in love with Sydney all over again.

Not the stuff everyone raves about – the big shiny blue. What I love about Sydney – what is unique and irreplaceable - is its crooked little heart. Its fig-bulged laneways, its impossibly narrow houses and streets, its hovels built as slums and now sought after by barrister-classes, its crazy modesty and crazier pride and the determination of those half-starved ignorant convicts to rebuild, in this vast and glorious continent, precisely the cramped and gnarly culture that had rejected them.

I found myself making a secret little vow to it – as if it were a child under threat. Yes, I love you. Yes I will do what I can to protect you. From the bastardry. So this is a bruised lovesong.

I know everyone thinks New Zealand is backward. But Sydney is doing to itself what Auckland did thirty years ago. Three ‘Ms’. Motorways, Mirrorglass, McMansions. Treating the whole city as a knock-down-rebuild.

It’s everywhere. I get hundreds of emails, all the time, from people who are infuriated, or despairing, over what is happening to Sydney.

I can’t cover all of it today. So, here’s ten things that make me angry.

 

1.      THE BAYS PRECINCT

A couple of years ago I had a call – several calls – from a bloke at the top of the NSW government bureaucracy. He wanted to talk to me about Sydney planning and, in particular, the bays precinct.

I ignored him. Nothing good ever comes from talking with government. Nothing truthful. That’s my assumption. That’s my experience.

They kept on. Eventually we had coffee. He came with minders, naturally. Imagine what would happen if you acted like a human being.  I decided he was genuine, talked to him about planning, the importance of distinguishing private interests from public, and recognising that government’s main – arguably only – role is to protect the public interest. Importance of setting street patterns, lot sizes, controls – BEFORE inviting develops to the trough. Two hours.

 A week later, the thing was launched – massive international event. All the handbag ladies there. All the big shots. And the plan was done.

 

2.      CONSULTATION – PARRAMATTA – COUNCILS

UrbanGrowth’s proposal to put 2,700 apartments and office space for 2,000 in buildings up to 20 storeys on precinct with Female Factory, old Parramatta Goal and old Cumberland hospital. No discussion. No debate. No change from a predetermined course.

 

3.      THE POWERHOUSE MUSEUM

Six weeks before democracy is to be restored we are lulled into false sense of security. There was meant to be a meeting tonight (31 July) to “consult” the community. Instead an announcement was made today.

 

4.      WESTCONNEX, NORTHCONNEX, F6 EXTENSION

Another example – get rid of democracy and slipstream-through a hugely unpopular proposal while democracy is SUSPENDED.

A garden suburb at Hellerau in Germany, founded in 1909, is a national icon, drawing visitors from around Germany and the world to experience and study the uniqueness of the place and its architecture. It is fully protected.

Yet here in Sydney, WestConnex ploughs through this unique area (Haberfield’s heritage precinct) destroying not just 53 houses, 23 apartments and nine businesses, but iconic street trees and gardens. And that’s not all. Not by a long, long way.

This is part of a world view. The government is determined to build the F6, although it will destroy 460 homes or 60 hectares of the Royal National Park, and cost $10 billion MORE than a rail-tunnel alternative.

What is even more appalling, a leak in April (2017) showed that the Berejiklian government has been instructing transport planners to ignore public transport, and build more roads.[1] – although we have known since the 1960s that roads are a BAD investment and only produce more congestion, more sprawl, more climate change.

 

5.      TREES

The beautiful avenue – destroyed not for light rail, but so that the light rail could move across Alison Road (Randwick), freeing up Crown Land for the racecourse to build a private hotel. Nine hectares of tree cover gone.

 

6.      SELLING THE SANDSTONES – GPO, LAND TITLES

Land Titles Registry: The government’s Expression Of Interest document says the winning bidder will gain the “first mover” advantage if it wants to “consolidate other government-owned land registries across Australia”. The GPO, our greatest treasure – our Elgin marbles - didn’t get a chance: sold in secret.

 

7.      SIRIUS

 The (Heritage) Minister refused to list the building on grounds of “undue financial hardship” – to whom? Not the housing tenants; to Property NSW.

The judge threw this out – noting along the way that the Minister hadn’t bothered actually to sign any of the documents before the court (that’s how arrogant they are).

Minister’s “financial hardship” argument about being able to build 200 units elsewhere makes sense on a strictly numbers basis.

 

8.      AFFORDABILITY FURPHY

The outright lie that the “affordability crisis” can be dealt with by capitalism. Again and again the government and property lobbyists – who noticeably share the same ‘songsheet’ – insist that it’s a supply-side issue. Which is kind of true.. But it is also self-evident that the minute prices drop, developers stop building – as Stockland recently warned that Newcastle was “oversupplied” – precisely to keep prices up.

So no way they can address affordability. This is no more than a thinly-veiled GREEN LIGHT to their developer mates.

 

9.      DARLING HARBOUR

So much ‘ugly’ on public land. I said to the government dudes five years ago when they were making decisions – it needs intricacy and explorability at ground level. It needs to be interesting and engaging and heal the rift with Ultimo. Imagine how fantastic that would be.

They said “oh, it’s the mums and dads. They don’t want that stuff.”

 

10.  THE WORD ‘URBAN’

“The Urban Taskforce,” writes Chris Johnson, “believes our cities are becoming more urban with new cosmopolitan lifestyles becoming popular…”

But density is not enough. It needs grace and charm and interest. Instead we are seeing bathrooms without windows, bedrooms without windows, apartments where you actually could not cook a meal even if you wanted to. Not urban, not a network, not about living.

I can’t forgive them for their world view. People are machines; cities are machines – making money, driving through en route between Willoughby and the (Sydney) airport.

I’m really, really not anti-development. But city building will be our biggest future challenge after climate change. We have to get this right, or the consequences will be catastrophic.

This means recognising that the public interest is primary, that government is fundamentally different from the market, and must shape it toward our shared, long-term goals.

If we cannot retrieve these values, and build and plan accordingly, our cities (and perhaps our planet) will become wastelands.

That’s why this FACT-CHECKING and the FESTIVAL OF URBANISM matter so much.

This is an edited extract of a keynote talk given by Dr Elizabeth Farrelly at the launch of the Festival of Urbanism iv. Dr Farrelly is Sydney-based columnist and author who trained in architecture and philosophy, practiced in Auckland, London and Bristol, who holds a PhD in urbanism from the University of Sydney, and is an Associate Professor (Practice) at the University of NSW Graduate School of Urbanism.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/f6-planners-told-to-ignore-public-transport-build-roads-documents-show-20170407-gvgbon.html

 

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The Festival of Urbanism navigates post-truth politics to expose the facts

The Festival of Urbanism navigates post-truth politics to expose the facts

The University of Sydney Festival of Urbanism returns for the fourth year to expose the real historical, political and economic forces shaping cities and urban life in an era of post-truth politics.

The two-week festival (31 July-12 August) of talks, panels, films, exhibitions and tours sees local and international speakers, academic researchers, industry leaders, policy makers and community groups take a deeper look at the real facts of living in global cities such as Sydney.

The big urban issues including smart cities, housing and living affordability, city growth and inequality, and balancing heritage conservation and social issues with urban renewal, are examined alongside Australians’ obsession with car ownership, the slow progress with Indigenous planning, and the pop-up culture reinventing communities.

The University of Sydney’s Professor Peter Phibbs, Head of Urban and Regional Planning and Policy in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning said: “In a time when the challenges facing Australian cities are substantial, the political and economic discourse about cities is light on evidence and too focused on rent-seeking and fake data.  The debate needs to move past slogans and symbolic policies, and engage the community in a real discussion about the trade-offs facing our cities.”

Architecture critic and alumna Dr Elizabeth Farrelly, a long-time advocate of conscious urbanism, will launchthe Festival and set the scene for how planning might navigate the post-truth political landscape.  Professor Phibbs will also reveal some awards for Australian urban documents that come to the attention of the Festival’s panel of fact-checkers.

Associate Professors Tess Lea and Kurt Iverson will present talks on their urban research incubators, funded over three years by the Henry Halloran Trust. Tess Lea will examine issues around indigenous housing and health, while Kurt Iverson runs an international study on urban alliances.

In an event with the NSW Planning Institute of Australia, a panel of experts from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs), the Department of Planning and Environment, City of Sydney, and the University of Sydney will discuss interaction of the NSW Land Rights Act 1983 with the NSW planning system and examine opportunities for improvement.

Dr Somwrita Sarkar and Dr Tooran Alizadeh from the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning will each discuss their research into the relationship between city size and growing economic inequality, and how to build telecommunications infrastructure for the 21st century smart city.

From community gardens and cinemas to mobile libraries and outdoor art, the pop-up culture that is reviving community spaces and urban life is the focus of a Sydney Ideas event with international guest speaker Professor Ann Forsyth from Harvard University and Associate Professor Lee Stickells.

NSW Minister for Planning, the Hon. Anthony Roberts, is a special guest at a talk by Professor Nicole Gurranwho gives deeper insight and possible solutions for the current housing and urban policy problems, drawing on recent Urban Housing Lab research projects. A panel of representatives from the Greater Sydney Commission, Tenants Union of NSW, and Stockland property group also give their views.

The documentary ‘Waterloo’ (1981) about the 1970s battle between residents and state government to save the area from redevelopment, is screening ahead of a panel with the film director Tom Zubrycki, a member of the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group (WPHAG), and architect Genevieve Murray on a new plan to gentrify the inner-city suburb. The WPHAG will lead a separate walking tour of the Waterloo Housing Estate.

The North Parramatta heritage precinct inspires a western Sydney discussion on how planning can work hand-in-hand with heritage conservation to safeguard a city’s history. A separate precinct site visit led by local advocate Suzette Meade and historian Dr Terry Smith will take in notable government architecture.

Opening during the Festival is a new Tin Sheds exhibition Small, featuring small-scale residential projects by local architects that offer a new way of thinking about housing renewal in Sydney.

The ancient walking track from Circular Quay to the fresh water spring known as the Tank Stream along Sydney’s George Street, and a Wild Food Tour along the Cooks River led by culturalist Diego Bonetto, are among several weekend walking tours during the festival.

For the full program and to register for events go to festivalofurbanism.com

The University of Sydney Festival of Urbanism is brought to you by the Henry Halloran Trust and the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

Media enquiries: Mandy Campbell, 0481 012 742 or mandy.campbell@sydney.edu.au

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How can intelligent planning and technology ease Sydney’s growing pains?

How can intelligent planning and technology ease Sydney’s growing pains?

With the Sydney population projected to grow to 5.89 million people by 2031, the city’s transport, public services and green spaces will be under a great deal of pressure. The University of Sydney’s third Festival of Urbanism will investigate what can be done to help ease the pressure on the global city.

The two-week festival from 1 to 12 August will investigate current challenges facing Sydney planning and the best ways of managing the rapid redevelopment of our global metropolis.

The University of Sydney’s Professor Peter Phibbs, Director of the Henry Halloran Trust, the sponsor of the Festival, and Head of Urban and Regional Planning and Policy in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, said: “Sydney’s growing pains are becoming more evident to the citizens of Sydney.

“Sydney’s challenge is like many global cities - how can we use smart technology, strategic investment, and smart policy to both accommodate growth and maintain Sydney’s position as one of the world’s most liveable cities,” said Professor Phibbs.

In response to the Festival theme ‘City Limits’, guest speakers, panels, architecture tours and an international exhibition will explore what impact intelligent planning and new technologies can have on rapid urban growth to help create better cities and a quality of life.

Kicking off the Festival is a public talk by the University of Sydney’s Professor Robyn Dowling on Smart Cities. Sarah Hill, CEO of the Greater Sydney Commission will respond to Professor Dowling and outline some of the initiatives of the Greater Sydney Commission.

In a partnership event with the Planning Institute of Australia, Patrick Fensham, winner of the 2015 NSW PIA President’s Award for planning excellence will speak on 2 August about Putting the public interest back into planning. An urban planner of more than 30 years and lead consultant on Sustainable Sydney 2030 for the City of Sydney, Fensham is a Director of SGS Planning.

The Sydney Environment Institute including the University’s own Associate Professor Rod Simpson (the Sustainability Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission), will host a discussion panel of civil engineering and environmental experts on 3 August. They will discuss current limitations of Sydney’s natural ecosystems and how a city can ‘work back’ from these environmental factors to create a more distinctive and livable city.

A Sydney Ideas talk delivered by University of Melbourne’s urban geographer Dr Kate Shaw on 8 August will look at how the culture of cities like Sydney, Melbourne and internationally have changed and evolved through social, political and planning factors. The talk, Is Sydney losing its edge, draws on Shaw’s current research on urban renewal in the 21stcentury, which considers ways of improving on the renewal projects of the last 50 years.

As technology continues to take over how cities operate, three leading University of Sydney academics in law, transport and interaction design will form a panel on 11 August to debate how far a city should go adopting new technologies such as driverless cars. The Dean of the University’s Law School will describe some of the risks associated with some elements of the new sharing economy.

A forerunner to the Festival of Urbanism, housing economist Professor Geoff Meen from the University of Reading in the UK will deliver the 2016 Annual Henry Halloran Trust Lecture on Wednesday, 27 July. Meen will discuss the housing affordability crisis, looking at the problem from an international stance by comparing the UK and Australian housing markets and revealing some common solutions.

The full Festival of Urbanism program including several other events is here. Most events are free but bookings are essential as seats are limited.

Event details:
What: Festival of Urbanism, brought to you by the Henry Halloran Trust and Cities Network.
When: 1-12 August (public launch on 1 August, 6-8pm)
Where: University of Sydney
Website: Festival of Urbanism

Above image: Iconic Buildings, collage, from the City of Ideas exhibition at Tin Sheds Gallery. Image courtesy of OMA.

Media enquiries: Mandy Campbell, 0481 012 742 or mandy.campbell@sydney.edu.au

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Are foreign investors forcing Aussies out of the property market?

Are foreign investors forcing Aussies out of the property market?

URBAN MYTH-BUSTERS SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON THE REAL CITY PROBLEMS

Are foreign investors forcing Aussies out of the property market? Will building more houses bring prices down? Does building more roads really reduce traffic congestion? These questions and more will be tackled at the University of Sydney’s second Festival of Urbanism from 1 - 10 September.

Following the inaugural event in 2014, the Festival of Urbanism returns with an expanded program that extends from Sydney to Parramatta. The theme of this year’s festival, ‘Urban Myth-busting’, sees expert panels, international speakers, city tours and films uncover the misnomers and real problems facing Australian cities.

The University of Sydney’s Professor Peter Phibbs, Director of the Henry Halloran Trust, the sponsor of this year’s Festival, said: “There are different stakeholders in our cities pushing their own agendas, sometimes based on misinformation and untested theories. It is time to put these theories under the microscope and separate fact from fiction. When we are tackling complex city problems we need to examine the best available evidence.”

In the current, highly-competitive housing market there has been much talk since 2012 about Chinese investors driving up property prices. Researchers Professor Hans Hendrischke from the China Studies Centre and PhD student Sha Liu from the Urban Housing Lab at the University of Sydney, together with Dr Dallas Rogers from the University of Western Sydney will discuss the drivers, politics and data on Chinese investment in Australian real estate. 

On the issue of the hot housing market, many commentators conclude that the only solution to housing affordability is to increase housing supply. However Sydney has seen significant increases in supply accompanied by very large house prices. A property market expert Professor Laurence Murphy from the University of Auckland will reveal the true relationship between housing supply and prices, and will provide some solutions for housing policy-makers to manage the price hikes in metropolitan markets.

International experience, especially in the UK, has shown that the not-for-profit (NFP) sector can play a key role in increasing housing supply. David Cant, CEO of BHC, Australia’s biggest NFP developer, will describe the experience of his company and issue a call for NFP developers to be seen as an important part of the affordable housing supply system. 

One of the biggest transport myths ‘roads are the solution to congestion’ will be tackled head on by the University of Sydney’s infrastructure experts Professor Michiel Bliemer and Dr Matthew Beck. This event will be co-presented with Sydney Ideas.

The view that crime is out of control in Sydney will be up for scrutiny. With Sydney recording a significant drop in crime over the last ten years, the University of Sydney’s Dr Jennifer Kent and Dr Garner Clancey from the Sydney Institute of Criminology will examine what has happened and what more can be done to make cities safer.

Moving west, several events in Parramatta will contest the city’s future alongside its bigger sister, Sydney. While transport policy currently focuses on getting people into the CBD, the situation in Parramatta is very different with most workers residing in Greater Western Sydney. So what is the outlook for transport in Australia’s next biggest city, when most workers travel by car? In addition, the stigma that arises from places in Sydney’s western suburbs described as ‘Struggle Street’ will be explored at a University of Western Sydney public forum. 

Lesser-known truths such as ‘mosquitoes as democratic urban planners’, looking at Darwin as a case study; China’s ‘Mousetribe’ that call Beijing’s converted air raid bunkers home; the ‘global love affair with the cable car’ that is spreading to other cities; and ‘where to get a decent cup of coffee in Parramatta’, will be revealed.

Sydney Architecture Walks will tour many of the ‘starchitect delights’ of the Sydney’s inner city suburbs of Ultimo, Chippendale, Redfern and Surry Hills, which have experienced a cultural and architectural renaissance in recent times. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s comments in 2011 about ‘sandal-wearing, muesli-chewing, bike-riding pedestrians’ of the inner city that have ‘no concept of a metropolitan city’ will be brought into question. 

The Festival of Urbanism will be officially launched by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore at a public event at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 1 September from 6.30pm.

 

Event Details

When: 1 - 10 September 2015
Where: University of Sydney and other CBD and Parramatta locations
Program and registration: http://sydney.edu.au/festival-urbanism/

Twitter: @Sydney_Arch #FestUrbanism

Media enquiries: Mandy Campbell, 0481 012 742 or mandy.campbell@sydney.edu.au

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Explainer: what’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market

Explainer: what’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market

The current parliamentary inquiry into home ownership is in the midst of public hearings, questioning, among other things, the decline in home ownership among younger Australians.

This, however, is not a recent issue. For a long time young people have found it difficult to purchase their first home. Home ownership rates for households aged 25-34 began to decline close to 40 years ago; declines for those aged 35-44 followed a decade later.

Declines have been most dramatic among low to moderate income households; only younger households in the top quintile of the household income distribution have been (relatively) protected.
A 40-year problem

These declines date back to social, demographic and economic changes that began up to 40 years ago. Social change in the 1970s saw the number of both single adult and dual income households increase. This resulted in increasing disparities in household incomes. The increasing numbers of high income households increased housing demand and triggered pressures on the housing market that began to squeeze out lower income households.

These pressures have been maintained by ongoing household income inequality, which has been increasing in Australia since the mid-1980s, compounded by growing earnings inequality and the impacts of uneven economic growth.

The squeeze on lower income households was intensified during the 1980s by high inflation and high nominal interest rates that limited borrowing capacity and created significant deposit gaps for those already facing income constraints.

From the 1990s, younger households were additionally constrained by the burden of education debt and deterred from home ownership by the implementation of compulsory superannuation which slowed down earnings growth.

As inflation and nominal interest rates fell throughout the 1990s, financial liberalisation contributed to an increase in the availability and reduction in the cost of housing finance. This, along with associated changes in lending criteria, disproportionately benefited high income households, most of whom were already established home owners.

The willingness of established households to invest in both owner-occupied housing and investor housing was fuelled by changes in our tax system that made housing an extremely attractive investment. Tax benefits for owner-occupiers increased in 1985 when owner-occupied housing was exempted from the newly introduced capital gains tax. For housing investors (whether negatively or positively geared), benefits arose from the asymmetric treatment of income and expense. These tax benefits increased in 1999 for debt financed investors prepared to speculate on rising real house prices.

Demand pressures from established households in the past two decades (readily seen in housing finance data) have reinforced ongoing pressures on urban land markets from population growth.

Declines in agriculture and manufacturing and the rise of the services sector have led to an increasingly urbanised population with jobs being concentrated in the centres of our capital cities. Increased demand has contributed to an increase in, and a steepening of, land price gradients in these cities. This is partly a result of the innate shortage of centrally located land in areas where job concentration is greatest, partly in response to state government strategic policies encouraging infill development, and partly in response to the inadequate investment in, and cost of, transport infrastructure.

In other words, increasing land values in urban locations are an inevitable outcome of the combined impact of:

the pressure of income and population growth;
structural change which results in increasing urbanisation and concentration of (knowledge-based) employment in its central locations
a failure to invest in rapid-transit transport infrastructure that facilitates cost-effective access to employment and essential services.

Quick fix solutions to the housing affordability problems that have led to declining home ownership rates often look to land release and urban planning policies. These might ease supply shortages driven by a growing population, but they are less likely to work when price growth is coming from increasing demand for bigger and better located dwellings. This demand is driven both by economic growth and by increasing inequality.

Higher housing prices arising from demand and supply pressures have had a number of effects. They have increased the wealth of established home owners and provided a platform for further increases in demand for housing, reflected in upgrading of existing homes, and in demand for second homes and investment dwellings. In so doing, they have excluded a growing proportion of younger households, and particularly low to moderate income households, from home-ownership. Some of this group can’t afford to buy, others would rather rent in a higher cost location closer to job opportunities than live on the outskirts of our metropolitan regions where housing may be more affordable.
The underlying issues

Short term cyclical factors are not enough to explain declining rates of home ownership amongst younger households. Underlying structural factors and changing institutional arrangements have been critical.

These include:

our system of housing finance that makes it relatively easier for better-off households to accumulate housing assets through debt finance;
our income taxation system that provides these households with an incentive to treat property as a means of accumulating wealth ahead of its more essential role as providing shelter; and
our system of property rights that ensures those who do own land are able to act as rent-seekers by expropriating for their own the increase in land values not of their own making.

These institutional arrangements reinforce existing housing and wealth inequalities.

If the decline in home ownership among younger households is not reversed, then ultimately Australia’s aggregate home ownership rate will fall. Whether this matters is an entirely different question. But it does suggest it’s time policy makers recognise the underlying structural drivers of current housing outcomes and consider which households will benefit from new policies that support property ownership.

Read full story »

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Housing markets, the GFC and city planning hits the headlines

Housing markets, the GFC and city planning hits the headlines

Australians are not alone in their concerns about housing affordability. The Festival of Urbanism's Panel discussion on "Housing Markets, the GFC and city planning" on Monday 27 October attracted lots of interest. Luci Ellis, Head of Financial Stability at the Reserve Bank, and Professor Mike Berry of RMIT (author of "The Affluent Society Revisited") were joined by  international experts Professor Christine Whitehead (London School of Economics), Professor Kirk McClure  (Kansas State University) and Dr Michelle Norris (University College London). 

What goes up does not necessarily go down in the US, according to Professor McClure -  despite a "huge overhang" of residential construction, rents continue to rise. Affordability tops the list of political concerns in the UK, especially London. Professor Whitehead lamented the fact that while 80% of adults want to be owner-occupiers, large numbers can't see how they can ever achieve that. And Ireland is attempting to deal with a legacy of "ghost estates" in parts of the country – sometimes by demolishing them.

Read more in the write up from the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald 

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Hear alternate voices and be heard on harbour renewal

Hear alternate voices and be heard on harbour renewal

Community members are encouraged to join local and international urban planning experts to examine the future redevelopment of the Sydney Harbour foreshore, covering Glebe Island, White Bay, Rozelle Bay, Blackwattle Bay and the Sydney Fish Market. The Future of the Bays Precinct talk, on 5 November at Lower Town Hall, will give Sydneysiders the opportunity to learn about this major urban renewal project with an opportunity for them to have their say at a public meeting on 16 November.

The keynote speaker is Professor Stephen Cairns, an architect, urban planner and scientific director of the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore – a world-leading research centre focussed on sustainable urban development – who will discuss the principles behind ‘open city’ design. Professor Cairns will outline the planning and delivery of HafenCity in Germany, one of Europe’s largest urban rebuilding projects, which saw old port warehouses replaced with residential areas, offices and shops, and how it could apply to the Bays Precinct project.

The talk is presented by the City of Sydney in partnership with the University of Sydney, as part of its Festival of Urbanism, which runs until 6 November. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the NSW Government project, covering 80 hectares of key foreshore land, provides a unique opportunity to meet Sydney’s future infrastructure, housing and open space needs, and residents and community groups should provide input.

The City of Sydney will be working with UrbanGrowth and the NSW Government to find the best outcomes for the future of this site,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The community has expressed concern they may not be given a meaningful opportunity to have their say on the project, and this forum will give them the opportunity to do so at a community meeting to follow. We believe that public interest is paramount, so the City will ensure proper process are followed, that decisions are open and transparent, and that planning and design excellence are at the fore of this project. Public access and mobility are key issues, and the renewal of the precinct should maintain and extend public access to the whole of waterfront. The City believes there should be a diverse mix of social and affordable housing and an integrated public transport strategy.The bulk, scale and location of future buildings need to conserve views and be compatible with surrounding neighbourhoods.”

Professor Cairns will be joined by a panel of local urban planning experts and community representatives who will discuss how the HafenCity model could apply to the Bays Precinct project.

The panel will include Westpac’s Head of Group Sustainability and Community, Siobhan Toohill, University of Sydney’s Director of Urbanism Associate Professor Rod Simpson, along with community representatives Professor Jane Marceau and Lucy Cole-Edelstein from community engagement firm Straight Talk.

Professor Cairns' talk and community meeting are being held ahead of The Bays Precinct Sydney International Summit, hosted by the NSW Government on 19-20 November.

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Megaprojects: A global review and the Australian context

Megaprojects: A global review and the Australian context

Large scale mixed-use urban renewal projects have been increasingly occurring in Australian cities over the past three decades. These megaprojects represent a type of urban development occurring widely around the world in varying city contexts that share an economic and political rationale. With a number of these projects built or at various stages of their necessarily long construction periods it is now possible to evaluate the results, or progress, and begin to better understand what the built outcomes and delivery processes are like. An evaluation of megaprojects is particularly timely in the context of Sydney, considering the recent announcement by the New South Wales Government to develop “The Bays Precinct”; 80 hectares of government owned, predominantly post-industrial waterfront land within 2km of Sydney’s city centre.

This paper presents a literature review on the global emergence of mixed-use megaprojects with reference to the Australian condition. It then attempts to distil the key criticisms of these projects at a global perspective, followed by examples of Australian megaprojects where these qualities are evident. The literature reveals that megaprojects around the world are widely criticised on democratic, economic and social grounds yet they appear only to be gaining momentum as a method of delivering commercial, housing and transport infrastructure. The findings suggests that in light of emerging evidence a reevaluation of the objectives, planning processes, and delivery methods of megaprojects is warranted.

Mike Harris. The University of Sydney.

download full report here

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A Sydney festival of mega proportions to tackle urbanism

A Sydney festival of mega proportions to tackle urbanism

With large-scale urban projects underway and more in the pipeline in prime locations along Sydney’s harbour foreshore, Sydneysiders have got the right to ask what should its city look like and offer its people in the future. The University of Sydney will stage the first Festival of Urbanism from Wednesday 15 October to start a broader public conversation on how to better plan Sydney for the future.

 Chair of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Sydney, Peter Phibbs said: “Sydney is a fast growing global city.  Large scale urban development projects – what we are calling megaprojects – such as the recently announced Bays Precinct, provide some fantastic opportunities for the city, but also carry a lot of risks. We only get one opportunity to get these projects right. Unfortunately there is a large number of Australian and international examples where these megaprojects have been fairly dismal failures.

 “We have a lot we can learn from other cities around the world about best practices in urban planning to building a vibrant, world-class city,” he said.

 The Festival of Urbanism, which runs until 6 November, will feature a series of lectures, panel discussions, Q&A forums and film screenings held at the University of Sydney and key CBD venues over three weeks.

 Co-convener of the Festival, Associate Professor Rod Simpson, Director of the Urbanism Program at the University of Sydney, said: “We are interested in how an open-ended discussion and multiple viewpoints can be made available to the public using a web platform to raise the level of debate about urban issues. We think the public is interested in the detail and tensions in the development process, and we need new means of engagement and discussion.”

 Local and international urbanism experts will spearhead many events, presenting case studies and research that will provide ‘food for thought’ on the best way forward for rolling out the megaprojects like Barangaroo and the Bays Precinct in the future.

 An international expert headlining the festival is Singapore-based Professor Stephen Cairns from the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre – a Singapore-Zurich collaboration responsible for shaping the research agenda to better understand and actively respond to the challenges of global environmental sustainability.

 At the Sydney Town Hall on 5 November, Cairns will explore the principles of the ‘open-city’, reflecting on the master planning and delivery of Hamburg’s Hafencity - Europe’s largest inner-city development project, and the blueprint for the development of a European city on the waterfront. He will be joined by a local panel that will discuss how the design approach for Hafencity might apply to urban renewal projects like the Bays Precinct.

 On 23 October US-based Emily Talen from Arizona State University will deliver a talk about designing a city for social diversity. Learning from good and bad experiences in the US and elsewhere, Talen’s presentation will look at how to deliver both diversity and density in urban renewal projects.

 Turning to Australian case studies, Dr Kate Shaw, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow from the University of Melbourne, will point to the Melbourne Docklands to examine the motivations for urban renewal in Australia and the lessons learnt in her lecture on 21 October.

 In a panel discussion on what the plan should be for the Bays Precinct, Dr Kate Shaw will be joined by the Hon. Craig Knowles from the Planning Research Centre, Associate Professor Kurt Iveson from the University of Sydney, CEO David Pitchford from UrbanGrowth NSW, and local community representatives to discuss numerous options. The audience will be invited to cast their vote for and against key ideas during the discussion on 20 October.

 Other hot topics on the festival program include health issues surrounding high-rises, the impact of the GFC on the UK, Ireland and the US housing markets and city planning, and alternative approaches to funding urban infrastructure.

 Throughout the festival, an online conversation will invite members of the public to also have their say on the Bays Precinct Urban Development Project.  Join the conversation at www.festivalofurbanism.com/onlineforum

 To see the full festival program and to register for events visit www.festivalofurbanism/events 

For conversation updates follow the Festival on twitter @FestUrbanism - #megaprojects.

The Festival of Urbanism is organised by the University of Sydney with the support of the Henry Halloran Trust and the Cities Network.

 Media enquiriesMandy Campbell, 0481 012 742 or mandy.campbell@sydney.edu.au

 

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Open city

Open city

In the face of uncertainty the public often calls for a ‘plan’ that clearly embodies a ‘commitment’ by government to a particular design/outcome/vision/strategy. This desire for a ‘plan’ is at once an expression of distrust of government, or the at least the need for some form of ‘social contract’ expressed in the form of a plan, and a response to unsettling change and to the incomprehensibility and bewildering complexity of the city. A plan has a symbolic value; it infers that the city is knowable and controllable.

But is a plan the best mean of expressing and achieving what we want for the city? Would it be better to have a clear set of principles and values that could be introduced into decisions about what should happen where in the city? And if so, where might these principles come from?

 

Perhaps the most radical starting point would be the idea that the inhabitants of the city should have control over what happens in the city, including where and how both public and private investment should occur. A French theorist, Henri Lefebvre argued that all inhabitants should have ‘a right to the city’. At the grave risk of over-simplification, Lefebvre was recognising that the rights of the individual are closely bound up in where and how they live in the city, and that decisions about the city – the ‘production of space’ to use his phrase, need to be made by the inhabitants to better ensure access to what the city has to offer. Like so much French theory of the time, the arguments and propositions are at once dense, rich, evocative, and impenetrable; and herein lies their strength. By being indeterminate, his writings have left themselves open to interpretation, adoption and iteration by a wide range of groups and in particular, advocates for social justice in the exponentially urbanising conditions in the developing world.

 

‘The right to the city’, the rights of citizens to the services facilities and opportunities that cities offer and have been the reason for their initial emergence, as places of interaction and transaction, predating agriculture, have been formally incorporated in the constitution of Brazil and law in Colombia. In these countries, these rights are concerned with access to the most basic services, water, sanitation, and formalisation of property.

 

At their core, Lefebvre’s ideas are calling for a complete overturning of capitalism, property rights and governance, so the potential for interpretation and application in Sydney is limited (!). The relevance of these ‘rights’ to developed countries, and in particular the need to have them enshrined in law where there is adequate governance, accountability and democratic processes is also unclear. However, the key linkage between the control of space and social inequity is valid. It is also clear that our democratic processes allow for, and accept what might be called embedded spatial disadvantage where citizens in some parts of the city are far removed from opportunities, and the majority is prepared to let this continue, because in our privileged societies the conditions are not so bad as to cause social unrest; but that doesn’t make it right, fair or acceptable, or for that matter efficient or productive.

 

This has been well articulated by Tim Rieniets[1]:

The long-held image of advanced western societies that inherited statuses such as social class, ethnicity, or race are increasingly irrelevant for access to valued social locations and the attendant bundle of life’ opportunities has not proven to be true.[2] In past decades a creeping resurgence of multifarious inequalities has entered the cities of many developed countries.[3]…. These developments are confronting us with a seemingly paradoxical process: more and more people will live in cities that in turn, are expected to drive much of the world’s economic, social, and cultural development. Yet, at the same time, urban resources and opportunities are becoming scarce and unequally distributed. As a result, struggles for resources, wealth, and power among different groups and individuals may increase, and threaten the capacity of cities to be home to the majority of the worlds population and to work as powerhouses for progress. Against this prospect, the Open City is not an abstract concept, but an increasingly urgent, interdisciplinary, and highly concrete demand. This Open City has to provide equal access- spatial as well as non spatial- to all the urban resources and opportunities available; and consequently, it has to facilitate coexistence of the diverse groups and individuals sharing it”

 

Although the conditions in the cities in the developing and developed world are very different, the underlying motivations and strategies might be seen as very similar; that is, the powerful build the cities they want, and this is independent of the wealth of the city.

In Sydney this is evident in the continual focus on the central city, the continuing investment in cultural and social institutions and augmentation of transport networks to gain access to this concentration. Most recently, this concentration has been bookended by the proposal to build a $400M extension to the Art Gallery of NSW in the east, and the idea of an entertainment/business/liveability theme-park in the west- the so called ‘superprecinct’. The assumption is that this concentration will ‘build on strengths’ with the superprofits and overall boost to the economy being then available for redistribution to the ‘areas in need’.

 

But this approach is fraught. The transfer of benefits (lets assume the transfer happens, and that it is generally westward) is far from transparent and to be blunt, it is begrudged. Nor do compensatory programs build the capacity or esteem in the west for it to develop its own culture and economy and so becomes a ‘client state’ within a state. The WAY the benefits are transferred is as important as the amount.

 

The power of a vision for a more equitable city is that it cuts across the political divide, it is possible to see that it is in everyone’s interest.

A social justice perspective focused on access to employment, education, housing and recreational opportunities, might be contrasted with an economic development approach that conceptualises the city as a machine for wealth creation through greater efficiency, access to labour markets, improved productivity and ultimately greater ‘competitiveness’.

But these perspectives can be reconciled and intersect when achieving a more equitable city is seen to be largely, though not entirely, about access, just as it is for the productive and efficient city as well.

 

And access in turn is what ‘urbanity’ is all about; it is why cities exist.

It is clear that we have moved from a general notion of ‘rights’ to the specific conditions in particular cities, and that there is a spatial aspect to this, not simply an abstract transfer of wealth.

To return to the initial question; are plans the answer?

 

Kees Christiaanse suggests a different approach:

“The Open City cannot be designed; it has to be produced via active intervention strategies. The urban designers instrumentarium does not consist of a clear –cut urban development plan, but of a strong vision that takes the status quo as the starting point, is implemented through gradual transformation, and can react to changing circumstances. The design of the implementation process is thus as important as the actual design itself. A good process improves the integration of any traces of the pre-existing context, and its characteristic properties, as a potential for identification. Even the best vision will fail without a carefully thought out design process.”

 

Christiaanse goes further, to draw out the physical characteristics that might be expected:

“ on the local scale, a critical balance has to be maintained between density, combination, and scale of program and social diversity. Finally, the points of contact for interaction can be enlarged by the creation of open, lively street fronts and adequate, permeable transitions between private and public at the points where buildings and public space meet…. The Open City is neither a utopia nor a clear-cut reality, but a situation, a balance between openness and closedness, between integration and disintegration, between control and laissez-faire.”

 

At first glance, these reflections may appear abstract, but sharpen when applied as a set of questions or criteria.

How, for example do the proposals for Barangaroo and Darling Harbour align with these characteristics and vision?

 

At the metropolitan scale, how do they improve the access to the ‘goods’ of the city, or the physical and social mobility of the less advantaged? In their design where is the balance between ‘control and laissez-faire’ when the physical design, contractual arrangements and delivery are so rigidly defined that a $500M dispute can be fought and won- for an entire precinct, before it is even half built? Is the introduction of a casino evidence of a process and plan that can “react to changing circumstances” as envisaged by Christiaanse?

 

In conclusion, the ideal and idea of the Open City can be seen in a number of ways:

·       as a set of guiding principles leading to a more just, diverse and accessible city, leading to greater social mobility, productivity and competitiveness

·       it is an “open” also in the evolutionary sense in that it is open to changes and the emergence of new patterns, it is iterative and incremental, rather than having a fixed end state in mind, (or in contract)

·       this in turn implies a more open design and implementation process and open governance

·       lastly, there is the inference of a more open and permeable physical form and ownership pattern that is also open to change, and is open to the contributions of many participants, owners, residents and citizens

Together, these may form the basis for an expression of what is in the public interest in relation to ‘megaprojects’.

 

Associate Professor Rod Simpson. The University of Sydney. 

 

[1] Tim Rieniets, Open-City: designing co-existence

[2] Loic Wacquant, Urban outcast: a comparative sociology of advanced marginality (Cambridge:Polity, 2007.

[3] OECD ed, Growing Unequal? Income distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries (OECD 2008)

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Why? "urbanism"

Why? "urbanism"

‘Urbanism’ is a useful term because it encompasses both the study and planning of cities as well as the condition of living in cities.

In this way the term ‘urbanism’ embeds the connection between the ‘planner’ or ‘designer’ and the city and people that are being planned for; it recalls the often quoted line from Coriolanus: ‘what is the city but the people?’.

If it is accepted that the human condition is inextricably and necessarily social, then the primary location of that sociability is the city.

It is possible to distinguish suburbanity – the desire to retreat, deny or be at a remove from the city, from urbanity. This is not to disparage or discount suburbia, but to recognise that the suburban condition arose initially as a way of avoiding the problems and undesirable conditions in the inner-city by those that could afford it.

Many of those conditions; pollution, noxious industry, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have been overcome by regulation, technological advances and infrastructure, in developed countries at least.

From this perspective, the original motivation for suburbia no longer exists, but the suburban ‘model’ continues to act as a powerful force, simply because we have established a whole integrated legal, financial, industrial and production systems to facilitate its continuing production. These systems have an extraordinary momentum (people, trades, businesses and also psychological attachment of individuals) to continue the same pattern.

In fact it goes further; not only is there the pressure to continue the pattern which is expressed as physical expansion, but because the suburban model and typologies such as shopping malls, drive in fast-food and ‘big box retail’ are the ‘norm’, we have been ruining many of our existing centres by trying to insert these inappropriate suburban models into them.

There has been extensive research that time and again shows the advantages to society as a whole to have compact cities in terms of economic efficiency, productivity, and if done well, lower environmental impact and social justice in terms of access to goods and services for the less privileged. But again, we come up against the dominance of the suburban model, where we expect to have, allow and even demand suburban patterns of car ownership, open space, privacy, noise and solar access in even the densest, most accessible parts of the city.

It is not a matter of proposing ‘slums of the future’ but rather to recognise that there already exists a ‘mosaic’ of living patterns and urban conditions and that this diversity is desirable, should be recognised and should be developed further, rather than seeing the ‘urban’ condition as being somehow inferior to the ‘sub-urban’ condition.

From this perspective, ‘urbanism’ can be seen as developing an understanding and appreciation of the different patterns of living that are possible in different locations in the city. This is what is meant by a ‘place-based’ approach.  Each place has its own character, potential, advantages and disadvantages, and each needs to develop a built form, public domain and open space network that encourages more sustainable patterns of living particular to those places.

The suburban model has also been an effective model for the avoidance of social ‘conflict’ as well. The spatial segregation of different social classes and physical separation of different activities may avoid ‘conflict’ but may also be accompanied by alienation, transference and dependence on regulation and institutions, rather than an ability and need to mediate and develop a sense of ‘civility’, tolerance and diversity that can come from the intensity of living in more ‘urban’ conditions.

 

Associate Professor Rod Simpson. The University of Sydney. 

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Megaprojects

Megaprojects

There is nothing new about ‘megaprojects’. Cities and indeed civilisation has depended on major infrastructure works to enable the concentrations of humans in cities far in excess of the carrying capacity of their physical footprint.[1] Think of Roman aqueducts, the water supply systems of Angkor Wat, or the rail system in India.

The novelty of the term ‘megaproject’ and reason for its emergence comes from the shift from publicly funded infrastructure projects where the public sector has borne most of the risk, when large projects were simply what governments did, in the early to mid 20th century, to projects where the risk is shared in public-private partnerships or other arrangements, to mixed-use urban renewal projects that do not always have clear benefits for the wider city.

As large tracts of cities fall into disuse due to shifts in economic geography and technology, governments are attracted to the prospect of possible revenue from the sale of government assets, ‘remaking’ and re-integrating these areas with their surroundings and possibly acting as a ‘catalyst’ or stimulus for further investment.

These mixed-use projects have emerged as a result of an ever diminishing capacity of governments to undertake even the relatively modest infrastructure works that might be required for areas of urban renewal or urban expansion.

Although these projects are claimed to involve little risk to the public sector, because government is a willing and necessary proponent, clearing the way for approvals, assembling sites, and usually offering transfer of land from public ownership to private, the question must be asked what is the motivation and what is the way to maximise the public benefit.

There are three aspects that need to be thought about: the external or contextual rationale; how the ‘project’ relates to the city, the internal rationale; how the project is structured and delivered, and lastly, whether the development of whole precincts as complete ‘projects’ or ‘precincts’ is the best way to make the city, as compared to critical infrastructure that would allow the surrounding area to evolve over time.

The contextual rationale of the project is about defining what it is trying to achieve, and in particular how the public benefit will be maximised. This requires a broad view and positioning within the entire city, not just the integration with or concern for the local context.

The internal rationale is about defining the best way to share risk, who pays and who benefits. It may also be about questioning assumptions, for example that the best ‘deal’ for the public is to get cash up front, or that the private developer should deliver the public domain.

This leads to the last aspect; the very use of the word ‘project’ when applied to whole precincts is also problematic. It suggests something that is well defined in time and space, it has a starting point and an endpoint and a clearly defined boundary. While such a precise definition is essential to allowing the project to be subject to contractual arrangements, this is very different to the way cities and areas within them emerge and grow over time, where there is no end point and an uncertain end-state, so what exactly is the ‘project’? and how and by whom should it be managed as a precinct, if at all differently to the rest of the city after the initial project is completed?

 In short the key questions for any megaproject as it is formulated must include:

-What sort of city do we want? - for whose benefit.

-What is the best way of getting it? - designing the delivery and procurement processes.

-What sort of governance is required? - both on-going and during the delivery process.

 

Watch TV program Utopia on ABC iview for some humour on the topic, highway upgrades and megaproject endeavours of the fictitious Nation Building Authority.  

 

Associate Professor Rod Simpson. The University of Sydney. 

 

[1] Roman aqueducts, Angkor Wat, Tenochtitlan, Haussmann, Panama Canal, Indian Railroads, etc.

 

megaprojects
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Super precinct. Business. Connectivity and cable cars

Super precinct. Business. Connectivity and cable cars

Let’s start with some confessions. I am a pretty terrible business person. (although I think I still hold the record for the most number of Legacy badges sold by a NSW schoolkid). I realised that pretty early on in my life and steered my career into academia where I have had the pleasure of teaching urban planning students for many years. 

Having a look at the material and some of the outcomes from a recent forum organised by business groups for West Harbour and you can see some of the issues when business interest groups decide they are urban planners. At the outset let me say it is great that business people want to get involved in planning. You can’t do successful city planning without business at the table especially when you are planning for a global city. The Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney recognises the importance of the business voice in city making and has joined the Committee for Sydney to join their very interesting and influential conversation. 

But when plans are generated by business interests they often miss some of the most important elements of urban planning that involves a broader consideration of interests and goals – not just economic growth and jobs. 

So what would a planner say about West Harbour becoming the engine room of Sydney’s economy. It will obviously play an important role – it already does. However, the engine rooms of global cities thrive on connectivity. Productivity is generated by employers being able to access employees from a very broad labour market – the very best person for the job takes the job. Places with good connectivity have access to the broadest labour markets. West Harbour lacks the connectivity at the moment that is available in the CBD, especially to the large labour market of western Sydney. Given the geography of the city, it will be difficult to provide that connectivity without very large levels of public investment. Perhaps that is not the best place to put this investment. Central-to Everleigh, located on the existing western heavy rail route might provide better productivity outcomes for the city, especially through its access to western Sydney. 

In relation to the outcomes of the day, one idea that I was asked to comment on by the media was the use of cable cars to provide some of this much needed connectivity.  All I can say it’s probably a better idea than I would come up with if I was asked to provide some business advice. 

If you want to hear more ideas about cities and urban planning. Come to the festival events, 
starting October 15th.

 

Professor Peter Phibbs 

Head of Urban and Regional Planning Policy. The University of Sydney. 

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Festival of Urbanism: website launch

Festival of Urbanism: website launch

The Festival of Urbanism is proud to announce the launch of our new website. Change your view of the city and register for an event

The website features the full program of 14 individual events running from 15 October - 6 November. Attached is a copy of the complete event guide click here. There are so many events so make sure to print in A3.

Alternatively you can pick up a copy of the guide next week from the Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Design, Wilkinson Building 148 City Road, Darlington. 

We've been working hard to bring you as much as possible from our initial ideas meeting. View the teams initial ideas process here 

We look forward to seeing you there.

The Festival of Urbanism Team. 

 

Photography: Rod Simpson

 

sohappy, web, launch
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The rise of the megaprojects

The rise of the megaprojects

Large consolidated urban renewal projects are looming in Sydney. The Festival of Urbanism challenges the role of urban development for public benefit.

"The importance of large-scale urban redevelopment, socially and economically, is rising and we now have the opportunity to leverage the wealth of international research and experience, create a platform for serious conversation and plough it into some of our future major urban renewal projects."

Professor Peter Phibbs. 

Link to full article to Read more

urban renewal, megaprojects, sydney, festival of urbanism
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The Bays Precinct groups get city support

The Bays Precinct groups get city support

The nature and role of our cities are emerging as a subject of great interest to the broader community.

"...the Lord Mayor told Monday night's meeting that recent planning and development processes, such as playing out at Barangaroo had created 'significant community distrust' about the state government's plans for the Bays Precinct" (McKenny 2014). 

The City of Sydney is providing support to the Bays Precinct groups to gain broader public interest. 

Read the full article here

 

 

Photography:  Future Cities Collaborative 2014

urban renewal, sydney, people's summit
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Contact

natalie.wells@sydney.edu.au
148 City Rd
Darlington NSW 2006

Site Development

Photo: Rod Simpson
Website: @hyphenio.com.au
Design: Tammy Nicholson

The Festival
of Urbanism iv

1 – 12 August 2017Brought to you by the Henry Halloran Trust
and the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

Click here for the full event guide