Walsh Bay Arts Precinct Revamp Gets Green Light

Bangarra, The Sydney Theatre Compan and Sydney Dance Company will all have their spaces refurbished. (Supplied: Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office)

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has unveiled designs for the $207 million redevelopment of Walsh Bay performing arts and cultural precinct.

The waterfront site between the Harbour Bridge and Barangaroo has received final planning approval, paving the way for the development of a performance, production and rehearsal space for Australia’s leading performing arts companies.

Construction on the project is expected to finish in 2020. (Supplied: Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office)

The NSW government proposal was held up last year after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a local restauranteur, who challenged the project on the ground that it had not been lawfully approved.

The $207 million project has now received final approval, after negotiations between the government, arts bodies and Walsh Bay tenants.

Construction on the precinct is expected to start as early as mid-July.

Australian Theatre for Young People Theatre of the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

Ground floor ‘raw’ Pier 2/3 Function Space of the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney Dance Company, Bell Shakespeare, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Sydney Philharmonia Choir, Gondwana Choirs and Song Company will be among a handful of new tenants.

The redevelopment includes upgrades to the historic Pier 2/3, Wharf 4/5 and their respective shore shed structures in the heritage-listed Walsh Bay Wharves precinct.

Architecture firm Tonkin Zulaikah Greer, known for their work on the refurbishment of Customs House, Carriageworks and the Sydney Opera House renewal, was appointed to the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment in March 2016.

Sydney Dance Company, Studio 5 of the the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

Responding to concerns about preserving the unique heritage setting, the architects have underscored the importance of preserving existing structures and celebrating the historic character of the 20th-century industrial maritime interiors throughout their proposal.

The newly-shaped precinct will echo the original gantries of the wharves externally while retaining original timber structures and finishes internally.

Steel-framed balconies, elevated walkways and glazed lifts are also proposed.

Once completed, the precinct will have the potential to host internationally recognised arts and cultural events such as Sydney Writers’ Festival and Sydney Biennale arts festival.

Bangarra Function Space of the the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

More work to be done

For Brigid Kennedy, whose restaurant, Simmer on the Bay, sits 20 metres from the proposed development, the lengthy and expensive battle has been worth it.

“The fight that I put up — and it was a substantial fight, it cost me a fortune — it has been listened to,” she said.

“You can continue fighting or they can sit up and listen and create something that we can all work with.”

Bell Shakespeare large Rehearsal Room of the the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

Central Foyer of the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

Ground floor Foyer of the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

Australian Chamber Orchestra Auditorium of the the proposed Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Image: David Duloy 2017

Ms Kennedy also had the backing of former transport minister Laurie Brereton, who is a resident at Walsh Bay.

“When Transport don’t announce a plan it’s because they don’t have a plan, there’s still work to be done. Transport hasn’t given us their plan yet,” she said.

“We would really like to see the ferries enacted on that wharf. That hasn’t been fully realised yet.,

“Amazing things have started to evolve but still a lot of work to be done.”

Sydney Theatre Company refurbishment to be designed by Hassell. Image: Doug and Wolf

The concept plan for the redevelopment, prepared by Bates Smart and Aspect Studios, was originally approved by the NSW government in May 2015.

Plan of Walsh Bay Arts Precinct Redevelopment by McGregor Coxall, landscape architect for the project. Image: McGregor Coxall

‘The Walsh Bay redevelopment is now expected to be completed in 2020, rather than in 2019 as originally hoped.

The Court of Appeal’s decision ruled that the planning consent granted in 2015 that had underpinned the project was invalid, requiring a new planning and consultation process.

Now that has occurred, Ms Kennedy revealed Create NSW intended to lease out her premises as a site office for the project.

Source: Editorial Desk AAU, “Tonkin Zulaikha Greer’s Walsh Bay arts precinct re-approved”, ArchitectureAu, May 24, 2018. Staff Writer, “Walsh Bay Arts Precinct Revamp Gets Green Light”, The Urban Developer, May 24, 2018. Linda Morris, “Walsh Bay Arts Precinct gets green light”, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 23, 2018.

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Walsh Bay Arts Precinct Revamp Gets Green Light