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This is what was proposed - 16-storeys, but not ethereal  like the images make out to be.

This is what was proposed – 16-storeys, but not ethereal like the image makes the tower out to be. Peer Review said the proposal would likely create a windy space, lack of shade due to limited shade trees …. a corporate image with little amenity.

Marrickville Councillors knocked back this development proposal, which many residents, including myself, believed would have killed Marrickville & set a precedent for many more tower developments.

I have cherry-picked some of the more interesting items in the ‘Post Gateway Report on Station Street Precinct Planning Proposal.’  It’s a large document that makes interesting reading & you can download it here (Item 27) – http://bit.ly/MyvniP

In essence the planning proposal for 2-18 Station Street & 1 Leofrene Avenue Marrickville sought to amend the Marrickville Local Environment Plan (MLEP) to change the zoning, floor/space ratio, as well as increase building height limits from 8-storeys to a whopping 16-storeys & develop 120 units & approx 510-sq-metres of retail floor space.

The developer also wanted to enter into a Voluntary Planning Agreement (where they give something in return for consent) & this was to be a small plaza/courtyard area under the awning of the building & part of the above ground access to the railway station.  It was suggested this will be a great place for the community to meet & perhaps hold markets.

I have taken some of the comments from my post on the Council Meeting of 17th September 2013 & added them below.  To read all of what was said see – http://bit.ly/1cXSPwi

The Architect said at the September 2013 Council Meeting, “At the moment, it’s the hole of Marrickville.”

The speaker representing the owner said, “This masterplan provides new public space.  It’s an income providing asset, well-designed public space & a landmark building.  It does come at a cost of increased height to offset the public plaza.  Solar access are generally non-issues & no different to 8 storey building currently allowed.  An 8-storey building is not in the interests of the Marrickville community.”

The then Mayor, Clr Macri was particularly keen on the development saying,  “We shape the buildings & the buildings shape us. …. This building delivers great things for Marrickville. It’s a dynamic, inviting & exciting open space.  I want to see this happen.” 

The Proposal was sent to the Department of Planning & Infrastructure for a Gateway determination.  This was approved in December 2013.  The proposal was also sent for Peer Review & to Transport NSW.

Transport for NSW had significant concerns with the current draft concept plan.  Some of their concerns were –

  • Ease of access, lack of accessible car parking spaces close to the station, safe, logical access for all commuters, access for emergency service & maintenance vehicles, management of pedestrian thoroughfares & adequate management of stormwater.
  • They also found that the concept plan encroached in TfNSW land & this has not been consented to.
  • Importantly, the raised plaza is incompatible with the proposed Marrickville Railway Station upgrade.
  • TfNSW has also committed to funding public domain improvement works in Station Street, which may not be available if the raised plaza goes ahead.

Peer Review –

  • The area is too small to create a successful two level plaza approach.
  • Problems with Australian standards for access.
  • Regarding retail space – “Coupled with large building undercroft space, this would create an ambiguous space with negative microclimate & amenity issues.”
  • The proposal would likely create a windy space, lack of shade due to limited canopy trees, need for more soft landscaping & inclusion of seats & bicycle parking.
  • Security & safety concerns of commuters.

Also –

  • Suggested substantial amendments to “remove blank walls, dead spaces & excessive tiered stairs.”

Further –

  • Proposed building is over-scaled, overbearing & out of character.
  • No justification of a landmark building.  “The very notion of a landmark building is contestable in general.  ….the question should be asked; a landmark for what purpose?”
  • “The overall rationale is questionable.”
  • The plaza would “present a corporate image with little amenity.”
  • Location of public parking is inconvenient, poor passive surveillance & likely to be considered unsafe.

Also –

  • The proposed design is an overdevelopment of the site.
  • Significant visual & overshadowing impacts.
  • Public space compromised by sloped areas, stairs & building structure.
  • Laneway is too narrow & unsafe.
  • Plaza would be in shade for most of winter.
  • Lack of public benefit of a ‘memorial park’ at 2 Leofrene Street, as it is small & would be overshadowed by the building.
  • Height, bulk & scale would dominant views & is out of character.

I was not present, but received the following update from a resident who attended the Council Meeting.

“Attended the Council Meeting earlier this evening. [There were] three excellent speakers; Laura & Matt from Schwebel Street & Jeanette from Leofrene Avenue. The developers were in attendance, but did not speak.

Information from the Business papers follows;

Based on the findings (from Peer Reviews & Council Officers) & recommendations of the Peer reviews and with the benefit of the final plans for the upgrade of Marrickville Station this report recommends a revised option for the maximum development potential of the land.

Key features of the [Council’s] preferred option are:

  • Allow amalgamation of Nos 2-18 Station St, the eastern part of Station Street & 1 Leofrene Avenue & require the dedication of a 6m wide rear lane adjacent to No 3 Leofrene St
  • Retain Council ownership of the balance of Station St road reserve.
  • Upgrade the public domain of the existing street rather than construct a raised plaza structure.
  • No encroachment of the building onto or over the Council-owned reserve, &
  • Limit the building to a maximum height of 9 storeys.

Recommendation was that Council requests the proponent submit an amended planning proposal for Council’s consideration prior to public exhibition that addresses the issues & is consistent with the preferred option outlined in this report.

The Mayor [Haylen] added an amendment, which was related to integrating the station upgrade.

Greens South Ward Councillor David Leary moved an amendment that the building should be within the MLEP 2011.

The debate then spiraled downward. Clr Woods talked about Process.  Clr Gardiner

Clr Gardener had a go at the Greens for not voting for the LEP & now trying to use it & had a go at all those people who use social media to say bad things about him.

Clr Macri & Clr Tsardoulias talked about process & at length about how the Save Station Street group [a local residents action group] were all Greens stooges & they didn’t think it was right that people didn’t say nice things about them on Social Media, when they sent the proposal off to Gateway rather than follow Council Officers recommendation that Peer Reviews be conducted BEFORE sending to Gateway process.

Clr Hanna talked about how he talks to residents all the time and had been fined for speaking on his mobile about the development whilst driving.”

The votes supporting Clr Leary’s amendment to require resubmitted plans to comply strictly with the Marrickville LEP: Clrs Leary, Phillips, Brooks & Ellsmore.  Against: Mayor Haylen, Clrs Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Woods, Gardiner Gardener, Tyler, Hanna & Macri.

The votes supporting Council’s recommendation: Mayor Haylen, Clrs Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Woods, Brooks, Ellsmore, Gardiner Gardener, Tyler, Hanna & Macri.  Against: Clrs Leary & Phillips.  Recommendation passed.

A section of the outside area og The Grounds.

A section of the outside area of The Grounds.

Sitting around the water feature.

Sitting around the water feature.

Yesterday I went with some friends to ‘The Grounds in Alexandria.’  Many of you have probably been, but it was the first time for me.  This is an enormously popular place & no wonder.  The food is great.  Prices are reasonable.  You can eat inside at a table or ‘take-away’ to eat outside in the extensive garden area.

Part of the outside signage.  Cute.

Part of the outside signage. Cute.

This post is not a restaurant review – though my meal was great.  What I am writing about is the site & what they have done with it.  The complex, located on the corner at 2 Huntley Street Alexandria, used to be the Four ‘n Twenty pie factory & had been so since the early 1900s.

The Grounds is in the heart of Alexandria’s industrial estate, where the street trees are really tall & the parking horrendous.  Once you walk through the entrance, all is forgiven, as the grounds are an utter delight.

On the left is the restaurant, easily found because of the line-up of people patiently waiting for a table.  In front & scattered around are barrows selling organic breads, tarts, coffee, cakes, fresh lemonade & other drinks, strawberries, nuts & even gelato.  The kiosks are beautiful, as are the displays of food.  Prices are well within the range of impulse buying & quite satisfying because of the quality.

To the left of the entrance is the ‘take-away’ food eating area. I should say areas, because the more you wander, the more the environment changes & you can sit anywhere to eat.  A massive pergola & clear roofed section with a few walls made out of recycled timber create an indoor/outdoor seating area.  Tables of all kinds are scattered around & people were everywhere.  Friday lunchtime was buzzing & I am told it is vibrant every day.

There are interesting tables made of industrial trolleys on steel wheels, complete with giant hooks that obviously dragged the trolleys through old factories.  Cleaned up, these look great & very chic.  There are places to sit in the sun, around a large water feature, under grape vines, in the shade & around raised garden beds.   There is even a glasshouse covered in vines with a large table inside – perfect for a group of 10-12 people to have a ‘private’ party.

They do wedding functions here, which is not a surprise to me at all.  I thought the place was extremely pretty.  Everywhere you look there are interesting items hanging from the ceiling, attached to walls or scattered around on the ground.  The set up is chic & colourful with real flowers growing in industrial containers all throughout the area.  I think you would notice something different each time you visited, simply because of the enormity of visual stimulation.   I also suspect the displays change with the seasons.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

Surrounding & intermingled are raised garden beds filled with herbs, flowers & other edible produce, which is used in the kitchen.  The Chef must pick what he/she needs for that day.  ‘No food miles’ is really sustainable & quite impressive for an industrial area in the inner city.

There is a florist onsite with an appealing selection of flowers.  Tucked in amongst the flowers are organic skin products & displays of industrial, vintage & other interesting items.  To their credit no plastic bags are used onsite.   I didn’t stay long enough to find the chickens & the resident pig – Kevin Bacon, but I am told they are there.  Apparently there is also a children’s playground area.

It’s part farm, part factory-like, part country & the mix is great.  Even outside on the street frontage they have planted gardens & shrubs, as well as strung ropes with Chinese Jasmine growing along the ropes.  Hanging pots dangle from signs or wrought iron scraps.  So much has been repurposed.

It’s obvious that great care has gone into the design of The Grounds.  It is not just a restaurant/café – it’s an experience & importantly, a green functional space in the inner west.  Who would have thought that an industrial complex could be transformed into a place where people can have a nature fix, as well as well as eat good healthy food?

It is their gardens & they way The Grounds have set up the area that prompted me to think that this could be the way of the future for our cities & our living spaces.

Right now it is known that businesses in green leafy environments generate 11% more income than those located in a mainly concrete/asphalt environment.  The fact that you can eat at The Grounds is just one of the functions of the complex & I can easily see something similar to The Grounds concept as part of any high-rise housing development.

A currently controversial development proposal to build a 16-storey residential tower next to the Marrickville Railway Station on Station Street is angering a considerable number of local residents.  See – http://bit.ly/18dbumc   As I understand it, the developer is offering a ground floor area for community use, half of which is under an awning, so he can get permission to bypass the eight stories limit that the Marrickville Local Environment Plan (MLEP) imposes for this site.

This was spoken of by some Marrickville Councillors as a boon for the community, as it will offer a space to just hang out or be used for weekend markets.  My guess is people will still prefer to go to the Sunday Organic Growers Markets in the very green & leafy Addison Road Centre Marrickville.  This place offers a nature fix leaving you with the feeling that you have been somewhere away from concrete & asphalt.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place.  There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place. There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

In my opinion, all new high-rise housing developments should include green space, not just a tiled or concreted area with a seat or two & some token landscaping that is likely not to last the distance.  The Grounds has shown what can be done to create a great space that significantly increases the livability of an area & is valuable to the community.  It is much, much better than what is currently & has been on offer with development across Marrickville LGA.  Incidentally, The Grounds also has monthly markets on the first weekend of every month.

As Sydney gets more populated, our parks are going to be equally populated.  Marrickville has the Cooks River & already many families travel great distances to come to the riverside parks.  As time goes on, these & other parks will become busier, so we need to have other spaces that double up as green space & recreational areas.  After yesterday’s experience, I can easily see how new housing/shopping developments can offer more.

The proposed new Marrickville Library is also a prime opportunity to step outside the box of what has been done for decades & provide something as innovative & useful as The Grounds.  This would see us into the future in a way that is environmentally sustainable in a people way, not just about water use, air-flow & the like.

Marrickville municipality has the dubious honour of having the least green space in Australia, so new developments really need to be different & provide green space, even if mixed with business, to ensure a sane population in the future.  That Marrickville was identified as the unhappiest suburb in Australia also bears mentioning.   Improving livability needs to be at the forefront of architectural design.  The more confined people’s living arrangements become in the future, as more & more apartment blocks are being developed, the more people will be needing open natural space close to home.

I’ve said enough.  Well done to The Grounds in Alexandria.  They pushed the gauntlet in a very successful & beautiful way.  Go visit their website.  There is heaps going on, including workshops in coffee roasting & gardening.  http://groundsroasters.com/

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the many seating areas.

One of the many seating areas.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse

Everywhere you look you seen green.

Everywhere you look you seen green.  This is good for people.

 

 

 

 

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