Mike Baird’s nice-ification of Sydney is threatening our claim as Australia’s global city.
One gets the impression that on Mike Baird’s ideal Sydney evening everyone is tucked tidily into their homes tweeting about The Bachelor by 8pm.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But this Baird-ian concept of a good night completely squanders the advantage Sydney should enjoy.
Sydney made its name as the big city, as a heaving global metropolis, home to five million diverse souls.
While Melbourne has deservedly carved out a reputation as friendly to ‘The Arts’, Sydney should be Australia’s urban projection to the world.
Sydney is meant to be gritty and loud and eclectic and exciting. That’s what draws people here — the joint is meant to be pulsing.
But the thing about creating truly cool areas of cultural and artistic value is that the last people who should be designing them are politicians and property developers.
Fox Studios, the Italian Forum in Leichhardt, Darling Harbour — this is what happens when visions of cultural experience are dreamt up from the top down.
They miss a critical point about true creativity and all the fun and value that comes with it: it demands room to move.
For Sydney to be Sydney, we need places to be noisy.
Kings Cross used to be this kind of space. Yet the Baird Government’s lock-out laws have released an unstoppable wave of niceness upon it that will not likely be reversed anytime soon.
That’s great if you want a quiet apartment in Potts Point. But squeezed out by the envelopment of niceness are the creative types — performance artists, small bars, musicians.
These guys are too noisy for Mike Baird's vision for Sydney. But what Mike misses is they are also what make cities great.
The kind of creativity that adds real value to a city demands that artists and artisans are able to rub shoulders with real life and real people; to be central to goings on.
Right now Sydney faces a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create such a space in the area surrounding Sydenham Station in the inner west.
There’s nowhere noisier. Planes fly low overhead. Trains rumble through six tracks at the station. Dozens of factories and plants clank through their days.
Given its prime location, there’s no doubt the space is underdeveloped. But being under the flight path means noise and height restrictions make it unviable for apartments.
Now if we were to be guided by Sydney orthodoxy, the solution would be simple: allow developers to build business parks.
The proximity to the airport would make it suitable for quick meetings. And workers could file in and out of Sydenham Station and be home in time for The Bachelor.
But for Sydney’s sake, the NSW Government has to resist this easy option and throw its support behind an alternate proposal to stimulate the area’s evolution into an exciting creative industries hub.
A simple rezoning of the area to ‘light industrial’ – as well as some traffic calming measures – would allow the noisy to flourish in the abundant warehouse space.
Already there’s a little brewery, but there could be small bars, food trucks, live music, and galleries.
Allowing the area to grow organically would mean instead of some try-hard, pre-fab zone for trendies, it would instead be gritty and authentic. New businesses would rub shoulders with the old noisy industries, like factories and panel beaters.
With Kings Cross withering on the vine, Sydney is desperate for it.