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Public hearing into Pyrmont towers gets rowdy

Thu, Aug 29, 8:04am by Staff Writer

The economic benefits delivered by a luxury apartment and hotel tower at the Star in Pyrmont “do not override all other planning considerations”, a senior Department of Planning, Industry and Environment official told an occasionally rowdy public hearing on Tuesday.

David McNamara, the Department’s Director of Key Sites Assessments, made a staunch defence of the Department’s proposed rejection of the 237-metre tower.

It was received with loud enthusiasm by a majority of the crowd that had assembled at a meeting called by the Independent Planning Commission into the Star’s proposal.

Summarising why the Department thinks the proposal should be knocked back – a view that has unleashed a torrent on criticism from some media and development players – Mr McNamara argued the tower did not fit into Pyrmont’s medium-rise surrounds, and did not find support in any state government strategy.

“It is reliant on a metro station at Pyrmont which has not been committed to,” Mr McNamara said of the Star’s contention the tower would be part of a “Global Waterfront Precinct”, a concept that is not endorsed by any government strategy.

“And it is reliant on future tall towers in the Bays Precinct, the scale of which is unknown,” he said.

The fact that towers might be built in the Bays area, around 700 metres west of the Star, did not mean that one should be erected at the Casino.

“Put simply, our assessment found the Bays Precinct is too far away to justify the proposed tower on the Star site.”

The opposing case was put for the tower by Clare Brown, a director of Star’s consultant Urbis.

Ms Brown argued the Greater Sydney Commission’s plan for the area placed the Star inside Darling Harbour, which already has a collection of tall towers.

“It’s not within Pyrmont,” Ms Brown said of The Star.

Ms Brown also argued that the Department had had ample earlier opportunities to raise concerns about the height of the tower.

In particular, the Department agreed to design excellence competition, which included a tower form.

“So it is of a bit of a surprise that there is an issue taken in relation to a tower,” Ms Brown said.

The City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, told the meeting that a rejection of the proposal was crucial for the credibility of the entire planning system.

She said Pyrmont had become a successful high-density suburb over the past 30 years, based on careful planning and consultation, not “ad hoc” proposals advanced by “powerful vested interests.”

Approving the development would be inequitable to all other landowners and developers, she said.

But the proposal received strong support from a number of industry representatives, including Margy Osmond from the Tourism and Transport Forum, Katherine O’Regan from the Sydney Business Chamber and developer lobbyist Chris Johnson from the Urban Taskforce.

Ms Osmond said the new “content”, such as the proposed Ritz-Carlton hotel tower, was crucial to the tourism offering of Sydney and Australia.

The meeting also heard from Pyrmont residents, both for and against the proposal, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

New entrance for Star Sydney

The Star Sydney will put on a $22 million permanent light show as part of a major transformation to its entrance in an attempt to entice international visitors.

Perth Now reported in May that the new grand foyer at Pyrmont, which was launched yesterday, will feature a light display designed by Ramus Illumination, who have worked for U2, David Bowie, The Academy Awards, The Grammys and the Super Bowl half time shows.

Falling water called ‘Aquatique’, lights and a 25 metre digital screen which responds to movement – a new experience for the 20,000 guests who walk through the foyer each day.

“The integration of Aquatique, LED screens, lasers, lighting and live performances is a world first for an entertainment precinct,” Star chief operating officer Dino Mezzatesta said.

The crescent-shaped screen will display work from Australian artists, university students, cinematographers and animators.

A spokesman for The Star said the foyer transformation – as well as the unification of The Star name across its Gold Coast and Brisbane casinos – was part of a wider international tourism strategy.

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