Sydney’s skyline is in for another major overhaul as 19 buildings in the central business district – some as high as 22 storeys – face the wrecking ball over the next two years for construction of train stations for the $10 billion-plus metro line beneath the city.
A further 17 buildings in North Sydney and Crows Nest will be torn down to allow stations to be built for the new 15-kilometre metro line running from Chatswood in the city’s north to Sydenham in the south via the CBD. In all, 52 properties will be compulsorily acquired across Sydney for the second stage of Australia’s largest public transport project.
While inevitably causing disruption in the CBD, Sydney metro project director Rodd Staples said construction of new stations at Martin Place and Pitt Street near Town Hall was akin to “keyhole surgery” compared with the massive excavation works required for the city circle line in the 1920s, most notably the station at Wynyard.
“It’s like having four major building developments in this area between Martin Place and Pitt Street,” he said.
The project highlights the extent of major work under way on transport links in the central city. Construction of the $2.1 billion light rail line between Circular Quay and Randwick and Kensington, in the city’s east, will intensify over the coming months as more parts of George Street are closed to vehicles.
Driverless trains will ply the metro line from Sydney’s northwest to the south via the CBD. Photo: Supplied
The owners and tenants of six buildings at Martin Place and 13 on Pitt Street were notified last week of the government’s plans to compulsorily acquire their properties for the new stations.
The operator of a childcare centre at 39 Martin Place told parents on Friday that it will have to move in about 18 months and has begun talks with landlord Dexus about finding another site. The 22-storey building is best known as the location of high-end jeweller Tiffany & Co, while also housing Turner Freeman Lawyers.
While state authorities had not provided much information, Martin Place Early Learning Centre told parents it had “time to ensure an orderly transition from the existing centre”.
Best known as home to high-end jeweller Tiffany & Co, the 22-storey building at 39 Martin Place will face the wrecking ball. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Mr Staples said the project team had poured considerable effort into selecting the locations for the new stations in order to avoid heritage properties such as the Commonwealth Bank building in Martin Place.
“The decision on these sites has not been taken lightly – we have thought long and hard,” he said.
“Every business has a different circumstance. Going forward 10 years from now and [the site at Martin Place] will be a regenerated area with a new station.”
A map of the new metro line from Sydney’s north-west to the south-west via the CBD.
The Baird government will also decide within the next few weeks whether the final path of the new line will be via Waterloo in the city’s south or Sydney University. Buildings at the site finally selected for the new station are also likely to have to be demolished.
Like the first stage of the metro line in Sydney’s north-west, Mr Staples said he was confident mutual agreement could be reached with building owners to avoid compulsory acquisitions. While focused on paying “fair value”, he said the government was mindful of not overpaying because taxpayers’ interests were at stake.
He declined to reveal the cost to the government of purchasing the buildings, although he conceded it would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sydney Metro project director Rodd Staples equates the construction of the new stations to “keyhole surgery” compared with past projects. Photo: Edwina Pickles
The total cost of the second stage of the project was put at between $9.5 billion and $11 billion last year, which includes property acquisitions. However, the cost is under review because of additions such as stations at Barangaroo and either Waterloo or Sydney University. Two of the buildings in the CBD set for demolition are owned by Transport for NSW.
The main construction work on the stations will begin in 2017 and will take longer than building office towers because areas for platforms and concourses have to be mined out of the earth.
The ground beneath Sydney’s CBD has become akin to Swiss cheese over the decades as it is criss-crossed by tunnels for pedestrians, train lines and roads, as well as building basements and shopping areas.
Mr Staples said planners were very mindful about navigating the tunnels for the new line beneath the city. “You do have to weave your way through a whole series of constraints,” he said.
The main holes dug for the station at Martin Place will be to a depth of about 30 metres, before excavation work begins for platforms and tracks. The station will have two main entrances.
The earth excavated during boring of the twin rail tunnels for the metro line will exit at Sydenham or the northern suburbs to reduce disruption from heavy trucks in the central city.
Mr Staples said it was too early to reveal what buildings were likely to eventually emerge above the stations as detailed talks with developers and other businesses was still some time away.
Transport officials will hold an industry briefing on December 4 to provide greater details about the new rail line.
Construction of the first stage of the metro line between Rouse Hill in the city’s north-west and Epping is due for completion in 2019 at a cost of $8.3 billion. That section will link to Chatswood on the existing Epping to Chatswood line.
The second stage of the project via the CBD is due to open in 2024 and will connect to the Bankstown line, which will be converted to take the new driverless metro trains. The government announced last week that it will also consider extending the metro line from Bankstown to Liverpool, in Sydney’s west.
Tenants of a 17-storey office tower at 55 Hunter Street – opposite celebrity chief Neil Perry’s high-end restaurant and bar Rockpool – were told on Wednesday that their building would be acquired for the new train station at Martin Place.
City Freeholds bought the building for $106 million in 2010. Ironically, part of the rationale for the purchase at the time was because the then Labor government was looking at acquiring one of the private property company’s buildings on Castlereagh Street for its version of a metro line.
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