8 Apr 2017

Widely regarded as Australia’s Silicon Valley, Macquarie Park is on a course to expand rapidly as a commercial and technology centre over the next 50 years.

With over 855,000 sqm of commercial office floorspace, Macquarie Park is Sydney’s second largest office market, second only to the CBD.

The 200-hectare employment area was formed in the late 1960s to support the coming together of technology businesses with the newly created Macquarie University.

To better understand the evolution of Macquarie Park, The Urban Developer sat down with Urbis Director Carlos Frias, who has extensive experience in the planning of technology and business precincts around Australia.

Whilst Macquarie Park presents a great opportunity for future development in the city, Frias believes that the precinct needs to sensibly balance its growth as a commercial, education and technology hub with rapidly growing demand for housing.

Projections indicate the stand-alone office workforce is forecast to grow from approximately 42,000 (December 2015) at an average annual rate of 2.9%, reaching a level of 55,800 by 2025 and an estimated 173,000 by 2065.

He cites four core areas that planning authorities and the development industry need to focus on: 

Current forecasts indicate that Macquarie Park is likely to accommodate between 2.9 and 3.6 million square metres of office space over the next 50 years, roughly three to four times its current size.

The Macquarie Park Strategic Employment Review compiled for the NSW State Government states that allowing unfettered residential development in the logical areas for commercial space risks limiting the Centre’s employment potential.

A claim supported by Frias who believes that clearly identifiable land use provisions are essential to ensuring that residential uses do not erode the commercial function of the centre. Alternate options could include retaining a commercial core or mixing residential with commercial provided that a minimum floorspace of commercial uses are developed.

Macquarie Park requires residential uses that build a local community and make better use of the public transport infrastructure while reducing the private vehicle usage.

An increased working and residential population will promote better use of the public domain as well as outdoor activities such as restaurants and shops.

FSR (Floor Space Ratio) incentives, that result in higher density, could be a mechanism that facilitates the provision of social infrastructure, such as schools and medical centres.

Consideration should also be given to improve connections to existing local parks and the Lane Cove National Park north of the M2 Motorway, which are important social assets that are currently severed by existing road infrastructure.

According to The Macquarie Park Strategic Employment Review, transport and services infrastructure has failed to keep up with the pace of commercial development and, as a result, Macquarie Park is currently facing serious traffic problems.

Amongst stakeholders in Macquarie Park, there is a view that these issues need to be resolved before changes are made to state or local planning controls that would encourage higher density development.

Frias outlines that the growth of the precinct is being assisted by a combination of lower land values relative to Sydney CBD, access to the M2 and Epping Road, reasonable car parking provisions and an affluent white-collar workforce.

Despite this, he is adamant that it’s success as an employment hub is undermined by its lack of public realm, as it’s a car-orientated centre with large blocks that lack pedestrian amenity and activation of the public domain.  

However, there have been major investments in public transport with the NSW State Government opening the Chatswood to Epping Rail Link in 2009 with three stations servicing the centre; North Ryde (east end), Macquarie Park (Centre) and Macquarie University (west end).  

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