THIS time it’s real. This time, its backers say, there is no other workable option. This time, the face of Newcastle will change and the city returned to its place among the world’s great regional cities.
The covers will today come off the anticipated city centre project spearheaded by GPT and the state government’s UrbanGrowth NSW. The $400million project has been described as the catalyst that will not only change the face of the city centre but drive further investment throughout the city fringes.
It coincides with yesterday’s unveiling of amended planning guidelines that the Department of Planning and Infrastructure hopes will drive that transformation more quickly and cohesively.
Both are certain to attract controversy in some quarters. The high-rise residential buildings in the city centre, revealed by the Newcastle Herald last month, are now formally on the table and open to public consultation on all elements.
Among key features of the UrbanGrowth-GPT plan are:
❏a 19-storey residential building on the site of the old David Jones car park on King Street, a 14-storey residential building on the corner of King and Newcomen streets and a 15-storey residential building in Wolfe Street;
❏a 15,000- to 25,000-square-metre retail precinct that will include a supermarket fronting Hunter Street, a cafe and dining strip and a world-class entertainment precinct that will include new cinemas;
❏the protection of heritage facades on the former David Jones building, the Masonic Hall in Wolfe Street and the terrace houses on King Street;
❏a 5000-square-metre commercial zone aimed at bringing more jobs into the CBD;
❏an array of smaller residential apartment buildings topping out at about seven storeys;
❏a mixture of six-storey retail and commercial buildings fronting Hunter Street Mall; and
❏a plan to return the old Market Square and Hunter Street Mall to its heyday of being the city’s retail heart.
In total, the plan will deliver between 400 and 500 new residential apartments to the site bordered by King, Hunter, Newcomen and Perkins streets. The joint venture owns every allotment on the site except the Telstra phone exchange in Wolfe Street, the council-owned car park on King Street and four privately held, smaller landholdings.
‘‘Future development of this site will be a catalyst for the revitalisation of Newcastle,’’ UrbanGrowth’s acting head of urban renewal Peter Anderson said yesterday.
‘‘This proposal is designed to attract the investment needed to deliver vibrant residential, commercial and retail development to the city. It seeks to balance the needs of different groups in the community with new opportunities for commercial activity. We look forward to discussing our ideas with the people of Newcastle.’’
Angus Gordon from GPT said the project offers greater connectivity to the city’s foreshore, its beaches and the emerging commercial hubs in the city’s west end. He said it was not the project’s aim to compete with the retail meccas at Charlestown and Kotara, but to become a key destination serving the city’s residents and the broader Lower Hunter community.
A ‘‘staged development application’’ will likely be submitted next month, he said, but each individual development on the site will go through its own DA process, meaning the community will get to have its say on every planned step and not just the masterplan.
The key to its success would be unlocking third party investment, ‘‘but we are extremely confident that this plan will do that’’, Mr Gordon said.
Unlike GPT’s previous proposal for the site, this project is not contingent on the heavy rail line being removed, although Mr Gordon said ‘‘we still strongly believe that the state government has made the right decision’’ to truncate the heavy rail at Wickham and replace it with a light rail service to the city’s east end.
‘‘The removal of the heavy rail line is still critical to the urban renewal of Newcastle,’’ he said.
The news follows yesterday’s revelations that the Department of Planning and Infrastructure has released proposed changes to the city’s building guidelines that will allow not only for the high-rise projects planned for the UrbanGrowth-GPT site, but also for other sites throughout the city, including the university’s city campus at Civic. Together, both plans form key planks of the state government’s Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy, which aims to build 6000 new homes and create 10,000 new jobs in the city by 2036.
Deputy director general of Planning and Infrastructure Stephen McIntyre said the plan represents an amendment to the proposal first mooted in 2012 and follows a public consultation period in which 420 submissions were received.
Mr McIntyre said the detailed plans would provide the planning footprint for the city centre for the next 20 years. ‘‘These planning regulations will provide the community and the business sector with certainty about the future growth of the city centre,’’ he said.
‘‘Once in place, development approval times will be improved as the city is provided with long-term planning controls.
‘‘These plans allow capacity for an additional 10,000 jobs and 6000 homes to be created in the city centre by 2036 – homes and jobs that will be supported by new and renewed transport infrastructure.’’
Among other changes, an area of Bolton Street that leads up to the courthouse will be rezoned to allow for buildings up to 10 storeys high.
The department is receiving community submissions until April 4.
By IAN KIRKWOOD
ALTHOUGH some proposed height limits in Wickham have been substantially reduced, the area is still seen by the state government as a future high-rise centre.
This was confirmed by Planning and Infrastructure staff yesterday, after documents that seemed to play down the importance of Wickham were put on display on Wednesday.
One of the documents explaining the intended effect of changes to the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 contained a table stating that height limits in Wickham were proposed to fall from ‘‘45 and 60metres’’ to ‘‘24metres’’.
A ‘‘clause relating to the Wickham Redevelopment Area’’ was ‘‘proposed to be removed from the LEP’’.
Discussions with planning staff revealed, however, the ‘‘current height’’ levels listed in the document related to the existing planning system, not the ‘‘Revitalising Newcastle’’ changes proposed in 2012. Height limits in that area had already been proposed to go as high as 90metres.
Land north of the railway line at Wickham was one of the largest areas of the city without underground coalmines beneath it, making it a suitable site for high-rise development.
The reference to 24-metre limits in Wickham related to land on the edge of the area, allowing for buildings to be ‘‘stepped back down’’ towards existing low-level development.
The clause to be removed from the LEP related to an unsuccessful plan to create a new network of lanes.
Much of the ‘‘West End’’ of Newcastle is zoned B3 or ‘‘commercial core’’ under the revitalisation plan. As part of the changes on exhibition until March 21, the government is planning to limit the construction of ‘‘residential flat’’ buildings in the B3 zone by demanding that any residential project have at least 25per cent commercial space.
This restriction is mirrored in two high-density R4 residential zones – one in Union Street north of National Park, the other near Newcastle Beach – limiting commercial development to 25per cent.
The Planning and Infrastructure website said the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy had been on exhibition from December 2012 to April 2013. The changes being exhibited now are in response to more than 420 submissions after that period of display.