Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pyrmont-Ultimo A Decade In Renewal

Influencing Development on The Pyrmont Peninsula

One of the last disputes about redevelopment on the Pyrmont peninsula was when the water police closed their headquarters at Elizabeth Macarthur Bay. This was prime real estate land and developers were keen to build luxury units on it. For many of the residents the opportunity of open parkland for recreation and harbour views for all to enjoy was an enticing option.

The local community, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and the Sydney City Council were all involved in the decision to create an open parkland zone with public access on the former water police site. The proposal outlined in the newspaper article did not go ahead. Individuals and groups were able to influence the decision-making processes through protests, lobbying of political representatives and petitions to parliament. A resident action group called the Friends of Pyrmont coordinated it. The construction union also imposed a ‘green ban’ on the redevelopment of the site. This would have prevented workers of unions from working on developing the site. As a result of this pressure, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Sydney City Council and the state government reached an agreement in June 2005. This allowed the City of Sydney Council to purchase the site from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority for $11 million. It was a win for the power of people and the local community over the financial gains from development—it was potentially worth $30 million had developers been allowed to build on the site.


Implications for Equity and Social Justice
With the redevelopment of the Pyrmont–Ultimo area and the change in the demographic characteristics of the population, especially the move from blue-collar to whitecollar employment, long-time residents of the area were likely to be displaced as houses were redeveloped and higher income earners were attracted to the area. In an attempt to manage the impact of the redevelopment on the existing residents, the state government developed City West Housing Pty Ltd, an organisation with the responsibility of developing public housing for the original residents of the Pyrmont–Ultimo area. Today they have a total stock of 381 units on the peninsula, 70 per cent of which are occupied by low- or very low-income households. Funding for the program started with AU$50 million from the federal government’s ‘Better Cities’ program. Other income has come from an affordable housing levy that has been imposed on all new developments on the peninsula. By 2024, City West Housing has a goal of providing 600 units for accommodation to lower-income residents of the area.

Implications for Sustainability
A redevelopment scheme like Pyrmont–Ultimo has implications for the environment. Urban consolidation, with a high population density, means that the population uses the infrastructure that has been provided more efficiently. With car usage and multiple car ownership a feature of the outer Sydney suburbs, Pyrmont–Ultimo goes against this trend as residents patronise the public transport network. Ferries, light rail, monorail and buses all service the area, as well as a series of well developed pedestrian walkways that offer access to the city.

Pyrmont Ultimo - Today

Pyrmont–Ultimo is now characterised by a mix of medium-density housing types, large areas of open space and white-collar industry. At the time of the 2001 census the area was home to 11 943 residents and industry attracted a workforce of 24 284 to the area each day.

Results of Urban Renewal
The Pyrmont–Ultimo area has been totally transformed from one of urban decay, gone through the process of urban renewal to a thriving community on the edge of the city. The community and its important characteristics are outlined in the remainder of the unit.
With the area gaining a reputation as a site for high-tech clean industry, the media and telecommunications industry is being attracted to the area. Companies like Channel Ten, Foxtel,
Galaxy TV, as well as radio stations like Nova,2SM and 2GB, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are located in Pyrmont–Ultimo.

The Community
The community of people that live in the area is best characterised by its age structure. Nearly 50 per cent of the population are between 20 and 34, making it one of the youngest areas in Sydney in terms of age. The community is composed of renters, owners and public-housing tenants. With the population structure of the area being so young it is essential that urban developers adequately prepare for likely changes that will occur to this structure. It is likely that these people will become parents in the future so provision of facilities and services for families needs to be available and part of ongoing planning.

Photos of Pyrmont Today

Pyrmont Ultimo - Changes Through Time

The original inhabitants of the Pyrmont peninsula prior to European settlement were the Cadigal people, who named the area Tumbalong, meaning place where seafood is found. It was not until 1811 that Europeans began to develop a port facility in the area to receive fresh produce from Parramatta and the New South Wales north coast. The port function continued to grow and by 1826 the area was one of the busiest seaports in Australia, which attracted industry to the area. The port facilities, close proximity to the city markets and a growing resident population continued to attract industry to the area. As industry grew so did the transport needs and in 1870 a rail goods yard was built to handle increasing transport requirements of industry.

More workers were attracted to settle in the area close to their employment and by 1900 the residential population had reached 19 000. Pyrmont–Ultimo was at its manufacturing peak and the area acted as an important industrial area from which wool was shipped, sugar refined, flour milled, and electricity generated for the city. Between 1939 and 1945 the Second World War changed the area, with the ports handling war supplies. After the war the area became the point of entry to Australia for post-war migrants. The importance of manufacturing began to decline as many of the manufacturing activities moved to the suburbs.

In the 1970s, when the Port Botany container handling facilities were developed, the cargo handling facilities of the Pyrmont area became obsolete, sending the entire area into urban decay with warehouses empty, shipping in decline, finger wharves demolished and trains no longer servicing the ports. By 1981 the population had fallen to 1590 people.

In 1984, the state government began a program of redevelopment of the area and by 1988 the redeveloped Darling Harbour Precinct made it a central part of the Australian Bicentennial celebrations with the area emerging as a vibrant retail, commercial and tourism precinct. Government influence continued with the City West Development Corporation being formed in 1992 with the specific task of renewing the entire Pyrmont–Ultimo area. Its aim was to increase the residential population and workforce by developing both residential and commercial facilities.

In 1998–99 a total of AU$1.5 billion was spent on the area in the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. This enabled the harbourside area to become the focus of entertainment and tourism for the duration of the games. This function continued in 2003 when Australia hosted the Rugby World Cup. In 1999 a planning change occurred when the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority was formed by the state government to replace the role of the City West
Development Corporation. This new authority then oversaw the remaining development of the Pyrmont–Ultimo area.

Pyrmont Ultimo an Introduction

Pyrmont–Ultimo was one of the first large-scale urban renewal projects undertaken in Australia. As the renewal project nears completion, it has transformed the former industrial heartland of the city into a thriving commercial, business and residential precinct that has accommodated the changes to Sydney as it has emerged as a world city.

Urban Decline - Changes in land use brought about by changing locations of activities within a city which causes other activities to move elsewhere, leaving former factory and warehouse areas abandoned (unused) and derelict (ugly).
Urban Renewal - The rejuvenation of urban areas that have fallen into urban decline. It involves turning old warehouses and industrial areas into office, retail and residential accommodation.
Gentrification - A process whereby inner-city, dilapidated (run down and old) buildings or poor neighborhoods are renovated by the movement of wealthy people into the area resulting in increased house prices.