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Evolution of Eveleigh

Australian Technology Park was once home to dusty old workshops housing locomotives. With a 99 year lease for the use of the park up for grabs, what does the future hold for this historic site? This was how the font page of Central Sydney introduced its cover page story on Wednesday 14 January 2009.

Grand plans for Eveleigh

AUSTRALIAN Technology Park is a strange place. Once home to the old rail yards, it is nowadays mix of modern glass and steel buildings and not-quite-ancient workshops. There’s a construction site on one side, rail carriages on the other. There are old locomotives and brand-new CityRail trains being gussied up out the back. It plays host to art exhibitions, school formals and parties and is a much-loved hangout for trainspotters reports Jennifer Bennett in Central of 14 January 2009.

The suburb of Eveleigh is slowly being transformed into an urban hub - but exactly what it will consist of is still unknown.

With a 99-year lease for the use of the site up for grabs, and a new concept plan that includes housing, commercial and community leases for North Eveleigh, the future of the area will be a major shift from its industrial beginnings.

The North Eveleigh site is owned by RailCorp, although it will soon transfer ownership to the Redfern Waterloo Authority.

At present, Planning NSW is assessing the North Eveleigh Concept Plan, originally submitted by the authority in January last year.

The renewal of Eveleigh is expected to cost about $1.3 billion, with almost 10,000 more people to be working at the site in the next ten years and almost 4000 more at North Eveleigh.

Five parks would be added to the area, with two buildings demolished to accommodate their expansion.

New residential areas are to cater for 2400 people, with a significant number of affordable dwellings.

Redfern Station is also to be improved in the drive to direct more people to the area.

There were originally concerns about the retention of the heritage aspects, but in the revised plan, the Redfern Waterloo Authority has stated that its strategies would “ensure an integrated heritage interpretation which best reflects the site’s history”.

The National Trust has indicated it was comfortable with the plans for the area, but is still waiting to see the final outcome.

The large erecting shed is to be retained, although its final function is yet to be settled on, and Wrought Artworks, the blacksmith operating in one of the original blacksmith bays, avoided eviction last year. The concept plan will guide the usage of the site by whoever wins the 99-year lease.

The University of Sydney, which is looking to expand, is among the likely bidders.

In December last year, the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, said the long-term lease of the assets would “provide a shot in the arm for the State’s economy”.

“It will also free-up the government agencies responsible for these assets… the Redfern-Waterloo Authority, to strengthen their focus on what they do best,” she said.

Ms Keneally said the leasing of assets would be staged and go if there was appropriate interest from the private sector.

While heritage issues are covered under the concept plan, the National Trust has said it was concerned there was the potential for mistreatment of its heritage elements.

“The Trust would be very supportive of a body such as Sydney University taking over the [site]. However, other long-term tenants could threaten both operations by the Blacksmith and in the large erecting shop,” Graham Quint, the National Trust’s conservation director, said.

“Again, with North Eveleigh, the Trust would be strongly supportive of an involvement by Sydney University as this would be less invasive and more accommodating of the various historic structures and layouts.”

The revised plan addresses environmental, heritage, community, safety, transport and development issues, including those raised after the original exhibition period in the middle of last year.

Along with a requirement for 12 per cent of new homes in the area to be reserved for affordable housing, the plan also proposes an increase to the number of child care places in the area.

A mixed use precinct including residential, commercial and shops would be build to the east of the Carriage Workshop, while the CarriageWorks arts centre would be joined by more “cultural use” space in the Carriage Workshop and the Blacksmith’s shop.

New buildings in the site would range from four to 16 stories high and all existing heritage buildings on the site would be retained.

Ms Keneally, who is also the State Member for Heffron, is expected to make an announcement on the future of the site in the coming months.

A Brief History of the Site

BUILT in 1887, the Australian Technology Park was originally the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop. By the 1930s, more than 500 locomotives were being run through the site each year. But with the decline of the locomotive in the 1960s, the workshop's active days were numbered, and it closed in 1989 reports Central of 14 January 2009.

At its peak, it was the biggest industrial complex in the country and employed 3000 people.

In 1917, it was one of the early staging ground for Australia's first general strike, which eventually spread to coal mines, wharfs and factories around the country.

In the mid-1990s, UTS, the University of NSW and the University of Sydney lobbied the State Government for $45 million for the preservation of the site's heritage elements and to turn it into a commercial and technical park.

Source: Central of 14 January 2009.

Photo: PHIL ROGERS - The Large Erecting Shed at Australian Technology Park.