City News

Macleay St upgrade a downgrade

Opinion BY ANDREW WOODHOUSE

Clover Moore’s proposed mega-million dollar Macleay Street “upgrade” has hit a snag; it’s not universally popular. Residents were roiled at the first community meeting in early November and another vociferous meeting on 19th November raised alarm bells.
About 130 local residents and businesses attended the meeting which Mrs Moore described as “lively”. In fact, it seemed bizarre, with the Lord Mayor whispering to those near her: “say something positive” and telling attendees “there are a lot of naysayers”. Her husband, Peter, interjected, yelling abuse at questioners: “you’re a load of old codgers!”

The project has since been altered and has a smaller footprint, starting at the Macleay and Orwell Streets corner and ending sooner at the Challis Avenue, Potts Point, intersection with Macleay Street. Macleay-Regis apartments and the Yellow House are now exempt.
But along the way massive archaeology will occur. Council refuses to lodge a development application, a budget or Heritage Impact Statement, a Traffic Study or Social Impact report, has no maps of underground utilities and has no public tender process, all due process items expected of a council with cash to splash.
Ratepayers are uber-sensitive to potential corruption issues and decisions by those high priests of planning made behind closed doors.

First impressions
Council’s “artists’ impressions” show bus stops will be moved and JC Deceaux transparent canopies replaced by Berlin bunker style concrete structures. Council’s dyslexic obsession with black granite tiles persists despite clear evidence these tiles lift, creating safety trip hazards.
Extra bicycle racks will be exploited by ubiquitous food delivery couriers crowding footpaths. Their etiquette knocks people over, literally.
There will be no more right turns from Macleay Street into Greenknowe Avenue, surely a nonsense.
Some footpaths will be widened between Hughes and Manning Streets, preparing the way for “dual use” footpaths. Does this mean bicycles on footpaths, another major safety hazard? What about the disabled and elderly or mums with prams?

But wait – there’s more from Mrs Moore.
She wants more raingardens and revenue-raising advertising flags on so-called Smart Poles, a juvenile idea with adds nothing to what should be the most glamourous street in Australia’s first suburb. Heritage? Bah-humbug. There will be no mosaics, heritage plaques, fountains or sculptures of any kind. Council promises a much-loathed, “CBD look”. Macleay Street will be an homogenised, cookie-cutter-style blands-ville with nothing unique to entice shoppers. Its character will be obliterated. As Gertrude Stein, an America commentator says, “there’s no point going there if there’s no “there” there!”
Proposed sterile street furniture is not something I would l allow my pedigree (Royal) corgi to sit on, even if allowed. Slab-like boxes, looking more like concrete coffins, will provide bed bunks for the mentally ill and homeless, who deserve proper accommodation.

Unsustainable?
Council’s plan is a downgrade, not an upgrade.
Locals estimate about 400 visitors a year will be lost due to reduced car parking. Council forgets each car brings extra shoppers to the area.
This project is unsustainable.
Consultation has been inadequate; only ten working days were allowed for public comment. Council’s “Decide, Announce, Defend” (DAD) strategy, is analogous to Basil Fawlty’s hotel flawed logic: “If we didn’t have these damned customers we could get on with running the restaurant!”

Council’s meeting was not the fait accompli it wished for. Locals asked for evidence the scheme is required but none was forthcoming. Businesses requested compensation but were shafted. Claims the new tiles will add prestige were mocked.
There will be no Melbourne-style smart compressor bins.
Work will be undertaken in 50-metre sections taking eight weeks each but will still take until 2021.Whole sections of the street will be barricaded off with council promising, or is it threatening, that “this is not going to be easy … there will be inconvenience … and issues.”

One political proponent insisted council should be applauded for the scheme. He was howled down with counter claim that the scheme was no panacea and would lead to financial ruin for some small businesses.
The residents are revolting.
Alan Heitner is the owner of Spit Roast. As an experienced businessman with 30 years’ experience, Heitner has owned five stores. He fears it will destroy his business in such a stagnant market and be ineffective in attracting more customers. “Foot traffic has already dropped,” he said.
Gregory Boulton, owner of the Minerva Vintage boutique and a small business owner since 1974, is also underwhelmed. He loves this unique street. He predicts that “there will be victims” of council’s scheme and shops may close resulting in a class action. “The design is overworked” he said, and “lacks an art direction. It will look like the Homebush Olympic site.”

Send your comments to David Riordan, Director, City Operations, at: David.Riordan@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au.