Is all development good development? by 0813 studio interior designers and retail transformation specialist.

Is all development good development? The answer is a big NO. We recommend sustainable development.

Nowadays any development especially municipal ones require thorough feasibility study and environmental impact study before budget awarding in order to make a justifying, feasible, cost-efficient and knowledgeable decision (to say the least).


Money is TIGHT. The recessing local market has taught us how, when and where to spend money. 10 years ago, value engineering was almost unheard of, now it is a quite common practice. We often hear clients ask us on any projects from development to small refurb: how can we make it cheaper? 

We are wiser. We have moved on from the 80s, 90s and 00s when people's mentality of exaggerating the aesthetic value of new development above all other factors - cost, impact, affordability, buildability, sustainability...etc. Before spending any money, we would ask ourselves questions like: 

  • What are the benefits?

  • How much can we afford to pay? Does it worth it?

  • What is the alternative if not proceeding with the development? 

  • Any other better solutions?

We would ask specialists questions like:​

  • What are the impacts to our environment?

  • What is the time frame of construction?

  • What are the impacts to local residents and local business?

  • Any heritage listing architecture in the scope?

  • ...

Unfortunately, we still witness lots of development that apparently were initiated abruptly and resulted quite expensive exercises with poor performance. 

EXHIBIT A: Sydney Light Rail Project

After months of delays and a $1.3 billion budget blowout, Sydney's light rail will finally be open to the public on December 14, 2019. The light rail will carry passengers between Circular Quay and Randwick, in Sydney's eastern suburbs, and will be free for the opening weekend, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced. Its final price tag will be $2.9 billion — almost double the original cost predicted by Ms Berejiklian in 2012, when she was the transport minister. (1)

The new track runs 12 kilometres and has 19 stops. In the east there are two starts to the line — one at Kingsford which travels via the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Kensington, while the other is at Randwick and goes via the Racecourse.

 

The fork meets at Moore Park and the light rail travels through Surry Hills to Central Station and then down George Street to Circular Quay.

But for now, only the Randwick to Circular Quay section will open as the line from Kingsford via UNSW is not ready for operation until March. (2)

A trip from Randwick to Circular Quay is expected to take 50 minutes — which is 10 minutes longer than originally forecast.

The aim is have the travel time down to 38 minutes, but that's expected to take months to "bed down".

Commentary:

Ms. Berejiklian must have this childhood dream of riding a tram on George St like the good old days (almost 60 years ago) as her parents would have told her. Over the past 6 years, we have witnessed the determination of putting a brand new shinning light rail on Sydney George St with every measure possible at all cost of tax payers hard earned money.  Unfortunately the money $2.9 billion comes from us tax-payers and the negative impact to local retail businesses is huge.

Don't get me wrong, the shinning new light rail does indeed look very impressive, however, the benefit just stops at the aesthetic value. 

  • From Circular Quay to Central, it is just s duplication of an already well developed underground train line. Yes, for anyone unfamiliar with Sydney public transportation, there has already been a well developed train line underground running exactly the same way, and at off-peak time, it is usually half vacant. 

  • From Central to Randwick, it doesn't feed the purpose of bus replacement. Well, first of all, it is slower than bus. Numerous reports have indicated that Sydney light rail is indeed slower by 10 mins. Now it might be the initial test and commissioning problem but apparently the goal is just to bring the journey down to similar time frame as buses. ​Its highly unlikely to run the tram by 70km/hr, and the tram still needs to follow traffic rules as there is not much barrier and protection for the pedestrians

  • The impact to local business is massive during the construction period, which has been delays after delays. Retailers have launched a $400million class action against the New South Wales government, blaming the setback-plagued light rail construction in Sydney for ruining their businesses. The project, linking the city's CBD with several south-eastern suburbs, was meant to be finished in March but that has been pushed back to May 2020. (3)

Question, why would you spend almost $3 billion dollars just to achieve that? All in all, it is an extremely expensive exercise, causing catastrophic damages to local retail business especially in this already harsh retail environment. The final achievement is really minimal that I am sure we have other areas that are critical to take care of. Top of my mind is the funding for RFS. This has got us wondering if a proper feasibility study has been carried out? 

EXHIBIT B: Sydney Football Stadium 

Sydney Football Stadium cost blows out by $99 million as government signs new deal with John Holland, after Lendlease backed out and recommended the original budget figure was too low once they finished the demolition. The total estimated cost for the project is now $828 million once demolition and contingency costs are factored in - $99 million more than the government's election commitment to knock down and rebuild the stadium for $729 million. But even with the revised price tag, the new stadium will not include an LED "curtain", which would enable the top tier of the stadium to be closed off during events that attract smaller crowds. The stadium's key tenants - Sydney FC, the Sydney Roosters and the NSW Waratahs - asserted that the technological feature was a top priority for them. (4)

Sounds like a hot mess? Well it is!

Commentary:

I personally do not have problem with Ms. Berejiklian. However, her decisions and proposals made over the past several years just have been quite questionable and her determination of building some monumental major projects as her legacy when she leaves the office. This is another development that is not necessary. 

The old stadium. The Sydney Football Stadium, commercially known as Allianz Stadium and previously Aussie Stadium, was a football stadium in Moore ParkSydneyAustralia. Built in 1988 next to the Sydney Cricket Ground, the stadium was Sydney's premier rectangular field venue for rugby leaguerugby union, and football. Capacity: 45,500 (venue capacity)
44,000 (seated capacity). Over the past decade, development plans have been going back and forth. In 2012 Sydney Cricket Ground Trust announced a master plan to redevelop Sydney Football Stadium, as well as Sydney Cricket Ground and the surrounding area, with a vision "for the SCG and Allianz Stadium is to create an exciting new concept for Sydney’s central sporting precinct - a revitalised, world-class, sports and recreation facility for NSW and Australia". The development of Sydney Football Stadium would have included a new fully covered roof and a new LED facade mesh for the stadium which would allow the exterior to change colours to suit the home team, similar to Munich's Allianz Arena. As well, development to the surrounding area would have included a new public plaza between the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium, new transport infrastructure, new underground car parks (4,100 cars) and development of the surrounding parkland. The scheduled start date for the project would have commenced after the completion of the Sydney Cricket Ground redevelopment, in January 2014. In early 2015, the video screens were replaced with large High Definition screens similar to the one at the Dally Messenger Stand at the SCG.

In September 2015, the New South Wales Government announced a proposal to replace the SFS with a new 50,000 to 55,000 seat venue.[8][9] The proposed new stadium was cancelled in April 2016, with the SFS to be refurbished instead.

March 8, 2019, the NSW government announced that the stadium will be demolished (5).

The new stadium, similar capacity, similar multi-purpose use, slightly different shape - rectangular, with more modern technology

Question: the new stadium is not larger or having more capacity, then why demolish the old one rather than a well-planned refurbishment, just for the sake of building something brand new? It is indeed the LNP way and their only way to stimulate the economy by massive infrastructure building, however, demolition a stadium with only 30 years life is definitely a overkill. Just to serve as a reference, the standard life span of a stadium is 50-70 years. It's unbelievable in today's world where every other country is promoting and adopting sustainability, our government would just adopt the old school ruthless method just to demolish something quite decent and start fresh just for the sake of it. Where is the feasibility report? When asked the reason why, the official answer has been extremely vague. "We need a state of the art stadium to match with Sydney as an international city" is not justifying the development.

We would recommend a $200M refurbishment - that will keep the original bone structure of the stadium, but adding a modern touch with new technology, a new canopy with digital lighting and auto closure system and all the soft refurbishment of all finishes and fittings. 

EXHIBIT C: Nepean Business Park 

Let's watch the news first. (6)

The current site: old quarry opposite to Sydney International Regatta Centre, currently as part of Penrith lakes, an untouched natural reserve. 

The new development - Nepean Business Park: ​

Located on a 47-hectare former quarry adjacent to the Penrith Lakes Scheme, the business park will inject $1.95 billion into the economy during construction. Once operational, this will be boosted by nearly $300 million in local wages annually for an estimated 3,987 permanent employees on site.

Commentary:

I think people are easily blinded with the initial projection of new jobs and economy growth brought by this project. While the resource of these projection is questionable, there are multiple factors to consider first which we don't see any evidence that Penrith city council has taken into consideration. 

Environmental Impact.

Nothing has been mentioned regarding the environmental impact report from the council. This needs to be done before commencement of the project, as 47 hectare is not a small piece of land. This also includes the impact to the neighboring residential area. The demographic this business park attracts...etc. 

Traffic Impact.

By adding almost 4,000 jobs in the area, inevitably it will add heavy burden to the already pretty bad traffic condition in the neighborhood. No relevant road widening or additional dedicated shuttle bus connecting Penrith train station has been mentioned, which means the worse case scenario is that there will be additional 3,000 cars on the road pointing to the area during peak hours. Can't get an idea how bad the situation will be? Try drive into or out of Bella Vista Business Park during peak hours, and you will see! Some potential client interested as advertised in the news piece, they manufacture say wind 

A Duplication of Zoning.

Here is the current zoning in the area. 

Green area is the new development - Nepean Business Park - light industrial zone. Blue area is light industrial area, well developed with some vacancy available. 

Orange area is currently being developed to be a new light industrial area with 50% vacancy.  

The rest areas are residential.

Isn't there enough light industrial area already? Marketing 101, you study the demand and provision first before moving forward promoting the product. If we see 'light industrial zone' as the product, then the demand is really not that strong. Otherwise the orange area would be already fully leased/sold, and there would be no vacancy in the blue area. Simple?

What about future development? I bet you would ask. 

It seems this council just positions itself on tradition light industrial and manufacture. With the current unstable recessing market, a transformation is a must before spending on developing anything old school. The council seems to miss the point of the definition of 'NEW', it not only means new appearance, it means a transformation and total game-changer of planning. What business you would attract to settle in this area, aren't you sick of the old industrial but would like to have a change to attract more high tech, green energy business with potential to go big? Just an idea.

We promote sustainable development, combined with full feasibility study, environmental impact study and professional cost estimate to make a knowledge and educated decision.

We have abundant experience of portfolio transformation, providing clients with strategies and designs catering for their own business. Let's start with a free consultation. For more information, please contact: peter.wang@0813studio.com / +61 466 20 0813

Please also have a read of our methodology page to find out how we could give you some real support.

Contact us.

(1)https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-05/sydney-light-rail-open-date-announced-by-nsw-government/11768150

(2)https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-14/sydney-light-rail-opens-after-delays-and-cost-blowouts/11766132

(3)https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7069821/Business-owners-file-400million-lawsuit-blaming-Sydneys-light-rail-project-ruining-them.html

(4)https://www.news.com.au/sport/football/sydney-stadium-project-blows-out-by-100m/news-story/c4470e9abcdac6d0dfa7b37b108ddfdb

(5)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Football_Stadium

(6)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1yFBJubCco

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