A scheme to tear down a 38-storey office block on Sydney’s Hyde Park and replace it with a 50-storey tower comprising a hotel, apartments and retail has been slammed as “outrageous” by nearby residents.
The proposed $426 million development on Elizabeth Street is due to be discussed on Thursday evening by the Central Sydney Planning Committee.
“It’s an absolute shocker,” said business consultant Mark Wallace, 54, who is the chairman of the nearby Victoria Towers apartment building, which residents say will lose much of its access to light from the new building.
“The existing building should never have been allowed as it’s much bigger than planning controls permit.
“But to think that could now be replaced by something even bigger…Everyone thinks this is an extraordinary proposal. We wonder how on earth planners could get this so wrong for the first building, and it’s outrageous to see developers taking advantage of that to apply for this.”
The current building, an A-grade office tower owned by Australian real estate investment trust Dexus, which manages a $26.5 billion property portfolio, was originally put up for sale in 2014 but withdrawn after a $400 million offer didn’t go ahead. The company then announced it would retain ownership of the tower, on the corner of Elizabeth, Park and Castlereagh streets, at the main entrance to the CBD from the city’s eastern suburbs.
Dexus now plans to demolish the tower and replace it with a 14-level podium that takes up much of the site and a much taller tower, to house a 350-room luxury hotel, retail space and apartments, including four levels of basement parking. The design has been done by architects Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp.
A Dexus spokesperson said, “The project proposal has undergone a considerable consultation process and gained the support of the majority of stakeholders. This development is part of the modernisation of any major city and we’ve been mindful of achieving a high quality urban outcome that is respectful of the council’s vision for the city and the building’s neighbours.
“While any development will have a vocal minority, we have taken on board the feedback of council and neighbouring residents in our revised proposal.”
But residents close to the site say the existing tower, constructed in 1978, prior to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and before the recognition of the importance of Hyde Park and the introduction of policies to prevent overshadowing and the blocking of sunlight, should never have been permitted.
Accountant Kay Redpath, who has lived in the area for 25 years, said the building the locals had nicknamed ‘Battlestar Galactica’ was “out of character with other developments and significantly overshadows the Anzac Memorial in particular and is vastly excessive and invasive to people’s enjoyment of Hyde Park.
“But the proposed tower was a terrible, terrible shock. It projects higher than the sun access plane for at least 65 or 70 per cent of its mass. It will overshadow Hyde Park almost to the boundary of Liverpool Street, affecting both the Anzac Memorial and the Aboriginal Memorial. This should definitely go back to the planning minister.”
A petition with more than 520 signatures opposing the new building and asking for Planning Minister Anthony Roberts to intervene has also been submitted to the Attorney-General’s office, as well as complaints about the public consultation process.
Unit owners in the Victoria Tower building said they did not receive any correspondence from Dexus, discovering later that letters were addressed wrongly to a different building number on the street. Residents at the Park Regis building and other towers along Pitt Street also said they had received no notification of the development application.
“We believe the current tower was approved because of an anomaly in the planning laws and now this application is taking advantage of that to ask for a much bigger height and a bigger footprint,” said resident Shauna Jarrett, 55, a solicitor. “But this proposed tower would completely destroy the amenity of the area.
“As well as its effect on Hyde Park and its neighbours, it will also ruin the entrance to the city from William Street with that light, those views towards the Town Hall and the wonderful wide open sky. It’ll instead create a narrow, blocked off corridor and it’ll be too late then to do anything about it.”
A City of Sydney spokesperson said that the development application would be considered at the Central Sydney Planning Committee meeting at Town Hall on Thursday evening.
“While this is a State Significant Development, the Minister for Planning delegated consent authority to the City,” she said. “As the DA has not been assessed yet we are unable to comment further.”