Leesha McKenny and Jacob Saulwick
The latest increase to development at Barangaroo “could be squeezing the lemon too hard,” according to Paul Keating, after the Baird government said it would allow larger buildings at the site to help pay for a new metro station.
Premier Mike Baird announced on Thursday the tender process for Central Barangaroo would open next week, and would include provision for the new station.
Central Barangaroo is planned to be a residential and commercial “bridge” between the headland park at the northern end of the development site and the more intensive commercial section at the southern end of the 22-hectare precinct.
Former prime minister Paul Keating at Barangaroo’s headland park. Photo: Brendan Esposito
The area was approved for buildings with a floor space of about 60,000 square metres, with about half the area to be used for public recreation facilities.
The Barangaroo Delivery Authority had already said it would invite developers to submit projects using up to 120,000 square metres of floor space, but on Thursday increased this to 150,000 square metres.
“It is the addition of the station,” said the chief executive of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority, Craig van der Laan.
“Obviously the government’s decision to give Barangaroo an underground station is a very significant game changer – it is going to make Barangaroo so much more accessible,” said Mr van der Laan.
Apart from the increase in development size, which Mr van der Laan said could mean higher buildings, the Premier said other elements of the area’s design would not change. More than half Central Barangaroo is to remain public domain.
Mr Keating, the former prime minister and a former chair of the Barangaroo Design Excellence Review Panel, said he understood the government wanted to ameliorate some of the cost of the railway station.
“But I think the cost of the railway should be attributed to the whole area of Millers Point and not just this building,” Mr Keating said. “In other words, the station is an element of common infrastructure.”
He said the proposed floor space limit of 120,000 square metres was already quite ambitious. “Taking this further to 150,000 square metres could be squeezing the lemon too hard,” Mr Keating said.
However, Mr Keating said “there is a distinct possibility of coming up with a good architectural solution, particularly now the railway is going ahead”.
“I think it’s possible to do something architecturally really good and I think this is what the government is seeking to do,” he said, adding the government “certainly understands” the importance of the site.
“This is where the built structure meets the headland park, and this built structure will sit alongside the open green space of Barangaroo Central,” Mr Keating said. “So the building has to be sensitive to its location.”
The lord mayor, Clover Moore, has been highly critical of the development process at Barangaroo. She said “accommodating the new train station should not be used to justify yet another increase to floor space or towers at Barangaroo Central”.
“There is more than enough density to ensure the station is well patronised and in fact it is essential to avoid gridlock in Barangaroo.”
The area will not include any affordable or key worker housing component, and Mr van der Laan said the government would not prescribe the mix of residential and commercial buildings.
“It is the place that people will want to come to to live, work and play,” he said. “It will be vibrant, it will be dynamic, there will be plenty of things to do there at every hour of the day.”
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