'Aesthetic disgrace': Proposed tower on casino site divides opinion

by Andrew Taylor

Original Link: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/star-casino-proposal-tower-chinese-hotel-20180921-p505ao.html


An artist's impression of a 237-metre hotel and residential tower proposed for The Star casino site in Pyrmont. Photo: star.com.au

The 237-metre tower will also feature a neighbourhood centre that could include a social enterprise cafe, library and function spaces.


“The location and the community have been considered throughout the process,” the spokesman said. “This development will also provide significant economic benefits for Pyrmont, Sydney and NSW.”


Yet the development, which also promises public transport upgrades and a renovation of The Star's facilities, has divided opinion.


Patricia Forsythe, the executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber, said the city had to create “iconic” buildings and “the proposed development hits the mark”.


"Sydney’s economy is anchored in the service economy and we cannot be half-hearted about development," she said.


Ms Forsythe said the area was becoming a major tourism and entertainment hub for Sydney "and that means people and activity in the precinct day and night".


The proposed development hits the mark. Patricia Forsythe, Sydney Business Chamber

"Whilst that will have local impact, it also means great choice for locals in terms of restaurants, places to visit, and job opportunity," she said.


But Alex Greenwich, the independent member for Sydney, condemned the tower as “inappropriate and destructive”.


“The proposed development breaches height, floor space and zoning restrictions; it fails to represent any strategic planning for the region and has no planning merit,” he wrote in a letter to the NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts.


Mr Greenwich said the tower would be an “aesthetic disgrace” and create “serious impacts” on nearby communities.


An aesthetic disgrace. Alex Greenwich, independent member for Sydney

“There is no need for The Star casino to build such a tower on the site, particularly given it would include residential purposes which have no connection to the facility’s core purpose,” he said.


Elizabeth Elenius, the convenor of Pyrmont Action, said the community group strongly opposed the proposed tower because of its excessive height.


She suggested the tower could detrimentally affect residents by worsening traffic congestion, overshadowing, causing reflective glare on some dwellings and obscuring views.



The convenor of Pyrmont Action, Elizabeth Elenius, pictured with Guy Di Benedetto, said the community group strongly opposed the proposed tower because of its excessive height. Photo: Cole Bennetts

But Ms Elenius said the neighbourhood centre, if accessible and affordable, may alleviate the suburb’s lack of community facilities.


“The proposal will enable The Star to compete with the Crown development,” she said. “It will create employment, and no doubt money will be generated for the government.”


Mr Greenwich said the tower would spoil the skyline from multiple vantage points and “suffocate” important public spaces, “The proposed development will result in substantial destruction of private views to a large number of homes in Pyrmont," he said.


He also expressed concern about traffic congestion and the potential of the tower to cast a shadow over parts of Pyrmont such as Union Square and Pyrmont Bay Park.


The Star’s proposal will be determined by the Independent Planning Commission because more than 25 submissions opposing the tower had been received by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

“It is legally obliged to assess any application submitted and it is being assessed on its merits,” a DPE spokesman said. “All submissions relating to the height of the proposal will be seriously considered.”


However, Ms Elenius criticised the planning system, which she said permitted developments in a “rules-free” environment.


“Successive governments have whittled away most constraints by declaring sites as of state significance or other descriptors, which are able to be planned in a similarly rules-free environment,” she wrote in a letter to the DPE.


“But to propose that Pyrmont will ‘transition’ to such a rules-free planning environment that will allow 60-storey towers anywhere in the peninsula is beyond alarming.”


The City of Sydney declined to comment on the proposal before submissions closing on October 9.


But a spokeswoman for Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore said: “The lord mayor is concerned about the proposal and has asked for an urgent briefing.”


In contrast, Liberal councillor Christine Forster said: “The Star’s proposed Ritz Carlton development would be an elegant addition to the city’s burgeoning skyline and will play an important role in our future visitor economy.”


The Star said in August Sydney lacked high-end hotels to cater for a forecast increase in tourist numbers, which, it said, were “led by the rapidly expanding wealthy Chinese middle-class demographic”.


Margy Osmond, the chief executive of the Tourism & Transport Forum, said the tower had the potential to transform the “wider West Harbour precinct” into Sydney’s tourism and entertainment hub.


Ms Osmond said the tower would deliver benefits to local residents including “better connectivity to the light rail and a focus on reducing traffic around the precinct”.

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