From the outset I have said that Barangaroo must be a place that caters for and reflect Sydney’s diverse community. This week came the news that the current modification to the plans for Barangaroo have seen floor space increased by 70% against the original plans. While high quality public space was always in the design brief it seems that piece by piece this has been de-prioritised in favour of private interests. Since the original design brief the gross floor area has been increased from 330 000 square metres to over 560 000 sqm. If these modifications are approved it will take the site to 681 000 sqm. Alongside the proposed eviction of public housing residents from Millers Point this represents yet another move to cleanse the waterfront from those less privileged and expand opportunities for the rich.
This change in density will have a significant impact on the look and feel of the precinct. The developer’s lobby group – Urban Taskforce – has argued in favour of the expansion of Barangaroo’s office space and casino, comparing this proposed modification with other high density areas in the CBD. This bigger is better approach shows they haven’t learned from Sydney’s planning mistakes of the past. The focus on corporate services in the CBD has seen the cultural and economic potential of Sydney’s city centre go unfulfilled for decades. The City of Sydney has done some excellent work to try and improve this situation with the Open Sydney strategy and related action plans but this will not save Barangaroo from becoming a lifeless playground for Packer’s gambling mates. Providing an inclusive community space and affordable housing are critical to Barangaroo’s success.