The City of Sydney is set to breathe new life into Haymarket and Chinatown, with a multi-million dollar plan to activate and improve streets and public spaces, shopfronts, parks and lighting.
Following a consultation process with more than 1,150 residents, businesses and community members, the City of Sydney has prepared a Haymarket and Chinatown revitalisation strategy and updated its Haymarket public domain plan.
New initiatives include:
- A grants program to help Dixon Street businesses upgrade and improve their shopfront facades
- Changes to planning controls to encourage investment in fine-grain small business renewal and strengthen cultural heritage
- Significant public domain improvements, lighting and new public art
- Grants for community-led cultural events and activations
- A new City of Sydney coordinator to assist local businesses and community collaboration.
Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore AO said the significant investment and work would safeguard the historic precinct’s success into the future.
“Haymarket is one of Sydney’s most iconic urban villages and has long been recognised as a focal point for Asian food, cultures, and communities both locally and internationally,” the Lord Mayor said.
“But the last few years have been incredibly challenging for the area, which was among the first areas in the city to be impacted by the pandemic. Businesses in Chinatown suffered greatly with venues capped or closed, people working from home and travel halted.
“Haymarket is also going through significant change. Major NSW Government developments such as Tech Central are under way, as well as major private developments that represent a vote of confidence in the precinct.
“That’s why this is a perfect time for a new overarching plan for the area, and our communities have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to work with us to celebrate the important precinct’s past and help shape its future.
“Through our extensive consultation we heard the community’s desire for a diverse, friendly and safe area that’s easy to navigate, with a range of food options and a streetscape that respects and celebrates the social and cultural history of the area.
“Our plans include a long-term upgrade of public space, with more trees, seats, lighting and integrated public art, as well as a proposed review of planning controls to support businesses and make it easier for them to celebrate cultural heritage in lighting and building upgrades.
“There will be greater support for cultural events and activations in the area as well as a complete revitalisation of Dixon Street and its famous gates, in response to the community’s wish to revive the heart of Chinatown.
“But we won’t stop there because we want to transform the whole of Haymarket and celebrate its identity as a home for many Asian cultures, including the growing Thai Town and Koreatown. We will deliver a green spine, integrated with servicing, along Sussex Street, create a precinct of lights adorning the streetscape and embark on a significant upgrade of Belmore Park.”
The Lord Mayor said that since 2010, the City of Sydney has initiated numerous public place investments in the historic precinct, with a large-scale transformation of the Haymarket area through the $43.5 million pedestrianisation of George Street south, new public space at Thomas Street, public art projects and upgrades to local streets like Kimber Lane.
“Our work to reinvigorate and support Chinatown started well before the pandemic,” the Lord Mayor said.
“We have completed significant upgrades to local streets and the pedestrianisation of George Street through Haymarket, introduced night markets and other events including the annual Sydney Lunar Festival celebrations, and we have supported new cultural attractions such as public artworks and the recently opened Museum of Chinese in Australia.
“The new plans take this work to another level while continuing our focus on bringing together different cultural groups to celebrate the area’s heritage, history and features.
“If approved, it will see the City of Sydney invest millions of dollars over the next 10 years to upgrade Goulburn, Sussex, Harbour, Quay and Thomas streets, to complete public domain improvements and reinstate light catenaries on Dixon Street, and upgrade Belmore Park.”
The City of Sydney has allocated $44 million in its long-term financial plan to fund works in Haymarket over the next ten years.
Key features of the plan include:
Dixon Street upgrade
The renewal of Dixon Street is at the heart of the revitalisation. Plans for the renewal are ongoing and in September ideas will be shared as plans are developed for the street.
During the consultation process, residents and businesses on Campbell Street told the City of Sydney they consider the area home to Thai Town. Streetscape improvements will highlight the cultural significance of the street and provide more space for outdoor dining.
Sussex Street could be configured to provide a green spine while providing access and delivery to the hospitality and retail engine that is Chinatown. The plan integrates a street design that improves spaces for people walking, installs a canopy of deciduous trees, supports deliveries, servicing, drop offs and pickups and enables cycling.
Belmore Park is a key green space for the City of Sydney. By improving sightlines, entrances and edges in the park, as well as activating the centre and increasing recreation opportunities, this vital space will realise its potential as a green oasis in the city.
A precinct of lights
Plans include a creative lighting master plan that will celebrate the cultural features of different streets, create a set of lighting features unique to the precinct, and explore public art that uses the medium of light.
The upgrade to Harbour Street will bring the heart of Chinatown and Darling Square together. The City of Sydney’s plans include major footpath widening on the eastern side, the installation of social seating for large groups of people and a special zone for markets, events and creative lighting.
Goulburn, Ultimo, Quay and Hay streets
Footpath upgrades, tree planting as well as increased social seating and outdoor dining along these key connectors are included in the changes to boost activity and business for these iconic streets.
The Lord Mayor said the City of Sydney would also explore opportunities to support events and activations.
“The draft plans propose spending more than half a million dollars over the next three years on precinct activation funding and supporting events held in Haymarket as well as $900,000 in grants for our shopfront activation program in Dixon Street,” the Lord Mayor said.
“While we have been safely activating public places and inviting people back to experience all Haymarket has to offer since Covid restrictions were eased, we’re excited to ensure its long-term future for people, daily life and culture.
“Now through our proposed public domain improvements in Haymarket, we will make the area an even more attractive environment for people to walk around and spend time, all while supporting local businesses and economic activity through integrated options for Sussex Street.
“Our precinct activation grants have already facilitated events like the fabulous Neon Playground and we will continue working hard to draw people to and celebrate this wonderful and important precinct.”
As well as significant public domain upgrades and the grants program, the City of Sydney will review its planning controls to make it easier for businesses and property owners to express the cultural heritage and future focus of the area.
Haymarket’s ownership is historically in small lots and businesses, which means large-scale redevelopment through consolidation is unlikely or desirable. The new plans recommend making planning controls more flexible to encourage fine grain renewal such as lifting the street wall height and reducing setbacks.
The proposed changes will also make it easier to install vibrant neon lighting and signs on private buildings and earmark several buildings and locations that may be eligible for heritage listing. The most significant of those is the Chinatown Ceremonial Gates on Dixon Street.
“We know the renewal of the Chinatown Ceremonial Gates is incredibly important and we hope the proposed heritage listing of the gates highlights its significance to us as we move forward with our plans,” said the Lord Mayor.
Collaboration and partnership central to the success of the project.
“Working hand in hand with the community is a key part of our draft plans for a revitalised Haymarket,” the Lord Mayor said.
“This holistic vison requires partnership with business, other levels of government, tenants and those with strong ties to the area.
“We would like to establish a Haymarket forum for people to share their ideas while appointing a bespoke Haymarket concierge service to cement the relationship between the communities and the City of Sydney.
“There is nowhere else in the world with the broad spectrum of Asian communities that exists within the streets that make up Haymarket.
“By collaborating closely with residents and businesses in the area we will bring together this unique community to create a world class destination, economic and cultural precinct.”
The proposals have been welcomed by Vincent Lim, President of Haymarket Chamber of Commerce:
“It is an excellent blueprint for the much sought-after revitalisation of this historically and culturally rich precinct. The Haymarket and Chinatown district is a major tourist destination and a significant contributor to our city’s economy. In addition to entertainment, it is also an education hub, a technology precinct, and an emerging theatre and arts precinct. It is therefore important that we bring out the best in this area and strive towards realising its full potential.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Brad Chan, CEO of Banna Property group, who said he believed the revitalisation would encourage more investment in the area.
“The draft strategy is very comprehensive and it was great to see some innovative ideas such as encouraging more creative lighting, shopfront upgrades and a dedicated co-ordinator for the precinct,” Mr Chan said.
“The City of Sydney and Haymarket community working in partnership will accelerate change and lead to better outcomes.”
If endorsed by Council, the Haymarket and Chinatown revitalisation strategy, the Haymarket public domain plan will be placed on public exhibition until 3 October.
For more details on the City of Sydney’s projects and events in Haymarket and support for business, go to cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/haymarket-precinct.
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For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore contact Paul Mackay. Phone 0436 816 604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org