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SSC Newspaper : August 2010
By Matt Khoury Planners are preparing Strath eld Town Square for the most remarkable transformation in the municipality's history. Under the plan the square will be radically redesigned to underpin the area's claim to be a major transport hub, yet restore its cultural heritage as a social hub. Four years a er the changes were drawn up by one of Australia's leading and most innovative urban designers, there are at last signs that the much- needed scheme will get under way. e proposed changes include an amphitheatre, a community building, video wall, increased lighting and open space art. e initial construction phase will see the transformation of the square into a green, ground-level roof over a pedestrian thoroughfare. A bus way that integrates increased parking will be built two levels below. Council managers are expected to conclude feasibility studies by the end of 2010. Initial results from the study suggest that the massive project will receive a green light. Sources have told the Scene that a closed-door meeting at council heard the scheme would cost more than $150 million. e development will be completed in phases, with potential funding coming from partnerships with private developers or state and federal governments, as well as developer levies. Cr Bill Carney, who was instrumental in initiating the master plan, says the council will fund the ambitious project by enlisting the support of the private sector. "We're looking for a public- private partnership," he says. "Whether that be West eld, Lend Lease, Stockwells or Macquarie, we're looking for someone who can drive the development." Mark Skelsey, a spokesperson for the Department of Planning, con rmed that a number of councils had met at Strath eld Town Hall to discuss the project. Brad Hazzard, the NSW Shadow Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, has also lobbied in support of the transformation of the town square, while Tony Burke, federal member for Watson, also backs this piece of urban renewal. is apparent unity among many of the key players has been buoying hopes that the much-needed project may nally receive the sanction it needs, so that nancial planning can begin. While no-one is promising the imminent arrival of the jack hammers, what is being said with increasing con dence is that the scheme, which has been on public display and largely applauded, is heading out of the planning basket and onto the To Do list. "A revitalised town centre is needed now, and even more in the future," says Patrick Wong, director of technical ser vices at the council. "Strath eld is looking tired. Buildings there are well past their use by date. It's got to a point where it needs to work properly." Balancing transport with the kinds of amenities that will bring large numbers of people back to the centre of Strath eld is a key component of the scheme, according to Wong. " e key part of the project is the underground bus interchange, providing di erent levels between buses and people," he says. "It will alleviate tra c issues and make it more people-friendly." e new-look town square will double in size, with pedestrian thoroughfares, more shops and Melbourne style laneways. It is designed to inject a new business and retail heart into the municipality, creating jobs and entertainment which, it is hoped, will draw in shoppers and families seeking entertainment from miles around. e Strath eld plan echoes a town planning paradigm initiated by Danish urban architect Jan Gehl, who has been commissioned to draw up people-friendly proposals for the City of Sydney, including an underground metro station. Sydney architect and town planner John McInerney, who was instrumental in bringing Gehl to Australia, says that city centres need to become quieter, safer and more welcoming. " ere's a need for a village atmosphere in cities, where people feel comfortable," he says. "Where they can sit, look and talk, and feel part of a community. People need places to congregate." Brad Hazzard, the Shadow Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, says a new Liberal state government, if elected, will do everything possible to support the Strath eld plan. "In terms of the Strath eld master plan, the issue is what the government can do to help, and I look forward to those discussions," he says. "Strath eld has been on the receiving end of intense development and population pressures, and there's no question it would bene t from more infrastructure. Strath eld has been taken for granted and it's turned into a sleepy hollow. As a major transport hub, it needs a lot more a ention." On a federal level, the Council of Australian Governments is encouraging cooperation between levels of government to facilitate a growing Australia. Tony Burke, federal member for Watson, says it is important to provide public spaces for a growing urban population. "Strath eld has experienced signi cant population growth in recent years.," he says. " e average annual growth rate for 2004-09 was 3 per cent, compared to the NSW rate of 1.2 per cent." Councillor Keith Kwon, the deputy mayor, says that a er four years of discussion it's time to move forward with the masterplan. "At the moment Strath eld is very congested and it's not the nicest place to be or shop," he says. "We're hoping the buses can go underground, and that would free the area up. "It's about time Strath eld got recognition as a regional centre. Many people in Strath eld are feeling that way. For so long, Strath eld has been the poorer cousin of Burwood." Strathfield Scene 7 "A revitalised town cente is needed now, and even more in the future.” -- Patrick Wong, Director of Technical Services COUNCIL NEWS www.ourstrathfield.com.au Town Square plan poised for green light Above:Strath eld Town Square, where buses , trains and cabs make socialising di cult; e concept master plan (right); Councillor Bill Carney( below), who championed the Town Square vision.