VIDEO: Central to Eveleigh Urban Transformation Program – Overview (UrbanGrowth NSW)
The NSW Government’s decision to build the Sydney Metro via Waterloo rather than Sydney University was based on the radical densification of the area surrounding a new Waterloo station. The precinct, currently made up of about 2,000 dwellings for public housing, is set to be re-developed with 7,000 dwellings. For a site that is 19 hectares in size, this represents 368 dwellings per hectare or about 700 residents per hectare.
The response has been mostly negative, with criticism emanating from the City of Sydney Council as well as the state opposition, raising concerns that the development is too dense. Comparisons have been made to Green Square, an urban renewal site about 1km South of Waterloo, where an additional 53,000 residents are expected to occupy an area equal to 278 hectares. This represents 190 residents per hectare, much lower than the 700 planned for Waterloo. To find a comparable city with population densities that high requires comparisons with Hong Kong.
But that is not a fair comparison. It compares a dense town centre (the Waterloo precinct), where densities are high but are surrounded by lower density residential areas, with entire suburbs (Green Square) or even metropolitan regions (Hong Kong).
A much better comparison would be with the 5.8 hectare Central Park which contains 2,200 residential apartments and 900 units of student accommodation. All together that is 3,100 dwellings which equates to 534 dwellings per hectare, compared to a proposed 368 dwellings per hectare in Waterloo. If Central Park can handle a higher density well, then surely Waterloo can too.
This is an important distinction as Central Park has been hailed as a great success story, one of density done right and in a manner that the community supports. Ironically, some of the same individuals and groups who have supported Central Park and are concerned about reducing Sydney’s housing shortage have also come out to oppose this, a similar project that would achieve that very goal.
The key is density done right. It’s not just a matter of plonking a row of high rise towers on top of a metro station near the CBD and assume they will automatically be a success story. It has to be well planned and well integrated into the existing urban fabric.
That is the debate that should be occurring right now – how to best build the 7,000 new apartments in a way that minimises the impact on existing residents and ensures that they are supported by the necessary infrastructure. Flat out opposing it or scamongering to appease the NIMBY voters is not helping.