10 December 2012 – Further to the recent article about the upcoming completion of the last building at Pyrmont, it’s worth considering why this urban renewal precinct has been successful and what we might take from this with regards to urban renewal more generally in Sydney and other metropolitan centres.

As Sydney continues to grow urban renewal will become both more important and more difficult.

  • See our article Jacksons Landing: an urban renewal project finally completed

In my view there were a number of very important factors working in Pyrmont’s favour:

  • The large 12-13 hectare site was in one ownership and its use was redundant
  • A broader strategic plan was developed by the private sector for the entire peninsula, setting out what future populations could be accommodated and what infrastructure would be needed. This stimulated serious government interest in an area largely ignored prior to this time.
  • There were also significant large government sites close by, such as Pyrmont Point
  • There was co operation between the three levels of government and significant investment in transport including Better Cities
  •  Very significant amounts of open space have been created, both within and near the precinct
  • The site is walking distance from over 200,000 jobs
  • Lots and lots of water views!

As we know, most of the large brownfield sites have been developed, so that future urban renewal projects will be significantly more challenging. They will generally be in fragmented ownership, not on the water, and closer to existing communities. So assembling viable sites, creating amenity and involving the community will be more and more important.

There are, however, lessons from Pyrmont that can be applied. Perhaps the following need to be considered (others may think of more, or disagree with some of these):

  • Develop broader precinct scale plans in centres with development potential that identify the overall uplift/benefits
  • Engage the community in participating in the planning process
  • Engage the relevant levels of government (could be state and local or groups of adjoining councils)
  • Identify government owned land within these areas as well as larger unfragmented sites (obviously much smaller than previous brownfield)
  • Focus on centres with good connections to jobs and transport – don’t focus on other places; concentrate investment in do-able areas and sites
  • Create amenity – most successful international examples of renewal plans improve transport, public domain and open space

Phillip Graus is a Sydney based director Cox Richardson.?