By Murray Donaldson | 12 Aug 2019

The City of Sydney has commenced a review of its Sustainable Sydney 2030 – a key strategic plan for the City of Sydney Local Government Area (LGA) that is now 10 years old.

Council are taking stock of progress and looking to the emerging challenges and opportunities facing Sydney to create a new 2050 plan.

One of the main components of Sustainable Sydney 2030 was to plan for and deliver large scale urban renewal in areas south of Central Sydney. One of the jewels in the crown is the Green Square Town Centre, located in the suburb of Zetland.

As the development of the Town Centre approaches 50% completion we unpack the key elements of the town centre in terms of planning, design and delivery, that contribute to the achieving the goals of Sustainable Sydney 2030. 

The long timeframe created an opportunity to prepare a robust planning framework and establish the governance arrangements, in turn creating certainty for the private sector to invest. 

The planning of the Green Square Town Centre has had a long incubation and is definitely a case of the old adage Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Initial planning commenced as early as 1996, with the establishment of the South Sydney Development Corporation.

The long timeframe created an opportunity to prepare a robust planning framework and establish the governance arrangements, in turn creating certainty for the private sector to invest. 

Taking a long-term view to create sustainable town centres and looking beyond a single development cycle is critical. It is also important for future development stages to have the flexibility to be able to adapt to market and social changes.

One of the most crucial components in rejuvenating urban areas around the world is private sector participation. There is a need for massive financial resources that cities often can’t meet on their own.  Participation from the private sector in the Green Square Town Centre has been a critical factor in it’s success.

UrbanGrowth NSW, alongside partner Mirvac, stepped in under the NSW Government’s mandate for urban transformation – including the delivery of new jobs and homes – which saw development really take off. Since that time, developers have partnered with the city of Sydney to deliver key public infrastructure. 

Ovi Site 5, Green Square Town Centre. Architect: FJMT Architects

The Town Centre is pivotal to the integrated inner-city transport network envisaged for the southern areas of the Sydney LGA, providing the opportunity for an important public transport hub.

Planning for the Green Square Town Centre has aimed to reduce further private vehicle use in the area, in conjunction with the provision of increased transit services and patronage to Green Square Railway Station. Parking controls were tightened in line with an increase in public transport frequency and patronage.

A coordinated public domain is a key ingredient for successful contemporary town centres.

An Infrastructure Strategy was prepared for private developers by the City of Sydney as a guide to ensure adequate infrastructure is provided to support new higher density development. The Strategy identifies the infrastructure requirements, costs and individual development site contributions.

The Strategy also details how the costs were to be equitably shared between land owners and developers, and determines infrastructure contributions, either in money or works in kind.

A coordinated public domain is a key ingredient for successful contemporary town centres. The preparation of a public domain plan for the Town Centre, and the broader Green Square area, set a vision that fosters a sense of place, respects local heritage, is accessible and sustainable.  

The coordinated and consistent design strategy for the public domain integrates transport and access, pedestrian and cycle amenities, public art, sustainable design, planting, lighting, green infrastructure and materials, and public domain furniture. This has been implemented through a single “Essential Infrastructure” Development Application, with progressive staged construction packages as each part of the Town Centre is developed.

All streets and public spaces in the Green Square Town Centre are designed to prioritise pedestrian safety, create shared urban activity, and encourage the use of public transport. 

Social and community facilities have been developed to align with the public open spaces for the Civic Place, The Drying Green, Matron Ruby Grant Park, Epsom Park recreational facility and the heritage buildings of the former Royal South Sydney Hospital Site.

Under Sustainable Sydney 2030 the City of Sydney aims to be internationally recognised as a leader with outstanding environmental performance and new ‘green’ industries driving economic growth.

Green Square Water was established by the City of Sydney as a private local water utility. Its aim is to harvest and purify captured storm and wastewater for flushing of toilets, servicing laundries, green space irrigation and cooling towers across the Town Centre. The Green Square Town Centre was awarded a 6 star Green Star- Communities rating.

Contemporary town centres are typically planned with a mixed use agenda, often with both employment and housing opportunities, as well as recreation, entertainment and lifestyle uses. This is the plan for Green Square Town Centre. 

Retail will front the plazas, with Ebsworth Street north of the plazas becoming a retail ‘high street’. Three commercial buildings are earmarked: one fronting Green Square Plaza to the north and two along Botany Road, south of Green Square Plaza. New apartments will be accommodated throughout the other buildings in the Town Centre.

Often what drives the location of residential uses is access to amenity, including good access to natural light, outlook, and visual and acoustic privacy. For high densities these concerns become more acute.

There are also opportunities for the retail edges to interact with the public domain. This is supported through narrow tenancies, engaging shop fronts, multiple entries, outdoor seating, weather protection and clear pedestrian site lines.

Site 7 & 17, Green Square Town Centre. Architect: Tzannes Architects

The planning controls for the broader Green Square Urban Renewal Area, including the Town Centre, have an inclusionary zoning mechanism that requires new residential developments to dedicate 3 per cent of floor space to affordable housing or make a financial contribution to the same effect. Council are targeting 330 affordable housing units. The inclusionary zoning mechanism operates on the premise that all the land in Green Square has increased in value as a result of its rezoning and public investment in infrastructure in the area.  

So far, the majority of developers have opted to make a financial contribution, which have been pooled and used by City West Housing Corporation towards building housing for essential workers.

Guidelines and policies are in place to achieve a high standard of design quality covering a range of site and building design considerations

The City of Sydney’s planning framework places significant emphasis on design excellence. Guidelines and policies are in place to achieve a high standard of design quality. These cover a range of site and building design considerations, including diversity in architectural expression.

The planning framework for the Town Centre includes provisions requiring developers to demonstrate that design excellence has been achieved by undertaking an architectural design competition or the preparation of design alternatives on a competitive basis.

Urbis have assisted UrbanGrowth NSW, Mirvac and BridgeHill Zetland navigate the competitive design alternatives processes, including preparing design excellence strategies and coordinating competitive design alternatives processes.

As the City of Sydney is looking ahead to 2050, Council should also keep sight of some of the more immediate priorities for the Green Square Town Centre to fully realise the potential as a contemporary town centre.

Office Workers- The completion of high-quality public domain, social infrastructure and additional housing should make Green Square more compelling for office tenants. 

A Green Space for Green Square- The Drying Green Park will provide active and passive recreation opportunities for residents and a place for local workers to enjoy a sunlit space during lunch hours throughout the year.

Active Recreation: Aquatic and Leisure Centre- The Gunyama Park Aquatic and Recreation Centre, designed by Andrew Burges Architects in association with Grimshaw and TCL will see new indoor and outdoor swimming pools, playground and picnic facilities, a fitness training circuit and a multipurpose sports field.

Public Celebration: Station Plaza- A public plaza that leads to Green Square Train Station provides a natural location for community gathering – a place for celebrations and performances.

A Diverse Nighttime Economy- Our view as city shapers is that a night time economy that is dispersed across the city supports a strong, safe and resilient city. A diverse night time economy in the Town Centre can emerge as the planning controls promote active streets, and areas for public congregation and celebration.

Light Rail Link to Central Sydney: The City of Sydney have a place holder for the light rail corridor linking Central Sydney to Green Square Town Centre, terminating at the Library Plaza in front of the Mirvac development. This priority corridor for transport has the potential to improve travel times for journeys into Central Sydney and better connections to cross-regional services. 

Urbis is working on a number of site developments in the Green Square Area. View the project details for Site 5, Sites 7 & 17, Sites 9 & 12 and Sites 8 & 19, below: 

Get in touch with our expert team to find out more. 

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