Saturday, September 26, 2009

Newtown in the Duststorm

Some photos from the dust storm that swept through Sydney on Wednesday (23rd September) around King Street, Sydney Park and Erskineville.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Campos Newtown features in the Australian today

There's an article in the Oz today featuring our very own Campos cafe' and coffee provider. Not long now until the Mayor's Top 5 Newtown cafe's are revealed - stay tuned !

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Erskineville Newtown Hive Approved by council

As expected, Sydney Council approved the Woolworths Hive grocery store / supermarket (which word you use determines which side of the fence you sit on this one) at their meeting on Monday night. While it's certainly not optimal use of the site as far as the community is concerned, at least it's a decision and hopefully it will trigger use of the other abandoned sites along that strip of Erko Road.

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Imperial Hotel Newtown (considered Erskineville) latest

The latest news of the Imperial Hotel renovations is now online. There's a court hearing on October 6 to challenge council's limit of 442 punters (the owner wants 788). Have a read and let me know what you think.

Posted via email from Mayor's posterous

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mystery Photo VI Revealed - Kinky Tea

Mystery Photo #6 alas last about as long as numbers 5 and 4. My readers do indeed know Newtown just too well. The Kinky sign above was indeed the remnants of the Kinkara Tea sign from the 'Kinkara Tea House' in Chelmsford Street.

I'm not sure the RA would have made it any harder to guess judging by the speed that Dark Star Deity tracked it down.

Here's the cottage in its full glory

There's an interesting guide to preserving Historic signs at the Heritage NSW Website here (pdf) which uses this sign as an example of a historically significant sign - check out the colouring of the sign in 1998 (p12) - it looks suspiciously like a touch up job.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mystery Photo VI - Kinky

But not too kinky.

I'm having a bad run with the mystery photos, none of them are lasting 24 hours. A sign I guess that Newstown readers know their 'town !

Where in our god-fearing neighbourhood is this kinky building ?

Mystery Photo V Revealed - Tin Shed in the Sky

Mystery photo V was the above mysterious floating rusty shed. Unusual enough in appearance to qualify as subject of the mystery photo series, the position of the shed outside the back of a popular Turkish pizza joint, and near the courtyard of a much loved Newtown cafe meant that this one was never going to stay a mystery for long.

The building on the right is the pizzeria. It's hard to imagine this one getting through council !

View from outside Buzzbar

Council Approved Plumbing

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hive Revisited

Back in May, I posted about the controversy surrounding the proposed redevelopment of the 'Hive' site (confusingly there's now a Hive Bar in Erskineville, but that's another story) as a supermarket. In a nutshell, the original proposal for a large supermarket was rejected for size reasons after a well-coordinated campaign from the Friends of Erskineville Village; only for the owner to come back with another proposal for a 'grocery store' (less than half the size) on the same site.

The Friends relaunched their campaign; but feelings didn't seem to be as strong this time round, and while no-one is pretending this is the best use of the site, there are plenty who feel that it's not the disaster the friends are claiming.

Now, the council Development Assessment Sub-Committee have prepared their report on the application which goes to Council next Monday. They have recommended approval of the application, subject to the following conditions:
• Restricting the maximum length of vehicles servicing the site to 8.8m;
• Restricting hours of operation to: 7.00am to 10.00pm, Monday to Saturday and 8.00am to 10.00pm on Sunday
• Implementing traffic works and restrictions;
• Prohibiting the use of trolleys; and
• Compliance with the acoustic report.
The full report can be found here (item 6) - I'll draw your attention to the justification (on page 51)
(a) the development will introduce much needed competition, a wider range of goods and lower prices for customers;
(b) residents would like to be able to walk to a shop of this size on a daily basis, rather than drive to another suburb; and
(c) the development will attract employment for locals.
(d) The re-use of the building has environmental benefits and will conserve its current appearance. It is a significant improvement to the previously approved mixed-used development.
(e) Traffic is an acceptable part of living in the inner-city.
(f) The building is currently an eyesore and needs to be refurbished. Investment in this part of Erskineville will improve the amenity of the village.
(g) The majority of residents support the application and are not being heard due to the minority of vocal objectors.
Point g), I imagine, will be particularly galling to FOE, but is consistent with what I have seen. Broadly, there were two main themes to the objections; the additional traffic that a supermarket on the site would generate, and the impact it would have on existing Village businesses.

There's no question that the traffic on that part of Erskineville road is shocking; and any development or use of the Hive would make it worse. The question the council has to wrestle with is the veracity of the claims in the impact statement that the majority of clientele would arrive on foot. Frankly you'd be mad to drive there (I'm not sure how many drive to Frankies on King Street or the Foodworks today) but I'm no traffic engineer. I used to commute via Erskineville Road until I discovered it was faster (not too mention better for you) to cycle during peak periods.

The second objection has drawn quite a response from readers of this blog and followers of the Mayor on Twitter - but not the one you might have expected. The feeling of the majority is that existing retail in the village takes its clientele for granted and could do with a bit of competition.

After keeping my opinion to myself in the first post; I finally added this today:
In my ideal world the Hive would be put to a more imaginative use than a grocery store / supermarket - but of course this is not an ideal world; and someone has bought the building expecting to make a commercial return on it.

The current proposal is way better than the previous one in size and scope. My biggest objection to the current proposal is that the shop will be run by Woolworth's - presumably under their new Thomas Dux brand. As Kelly pointed out above, they don't have a great track record in the way they treat local businesses - it's a crying shame the new Hive owner couldn't find a local to open up a boutique grocers there instead.

Unfortunately Council can't reject the proposal on those grounds - we're really in the hands of the ACCC to protect us from the grocery duopoly - a job they are not doing very well at the moment IMO.

One positive is that finally the Hive will no longer be derelict; now to fix some of the other buildings on Erskineville Road.
As always, interested in comments and feedback.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mystery Photo IV Revealed - Tram Shed Ramparts

Mystery Photo IV asked you to identify the jungle ramparts in the photo above. This didn't prove too difficult, and Steve of Bucknell very quickly identified it as the back of the tramsheds off Railway Lane. I'll save a potted history of the tram sheds, and the mayor's plans for them, for another post and instead just share a few more photos of the sheds as they are today.

There are some fantastic shots from inside the sheds on Newstown reader Ghee's flickr page; below I offer my more humble efforts - from the laneway:

from Erskineville:

and finally from the Thomas Street:

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Moving the Inner West

Flights to Surry Hills on the hour

It seems like all our local transport modes are in various stages of revision at once. There's a new train timetable kicking into place next month; the State Transit Authority has just launched a consultation phase for new bus timetables for the South and West, and Sydney Council has just released its draft Pedestrian Cycling and Traffic Calming Plan (catchy name that one) for Darlinghurst, Camperdown, Erskineville and the bits of Newtown they control. Not to mention (which I won't this time, I promise) all the hullabaloo regarding light rail and metro in the wider Inner West.

Inner Westies have just a couple of weeks to get their act together if they want some say in all of this. It's too late for the trains, which after a false start a couple of years ago will start operating to the new timetable on October 11th. The relevant changes are summarised here - there doesn't seem to be much changing on the Inner West line at first glance.

State Transit have gone to quite an effort to consult their planned bus route and timetable changes; apart from this informative website, glossy brochures - complete with detailed maps - have been distributed to all households in the region. Changes to the busses in the area have been summarised in 8 categories:
  • Sydney CBD focused bus services;
  • Balmain, Birchgrove and Glebe bus services;
  • The Metrobus network;
  • Strathfield bus services;
  • Homebush Bay bus services;
  • Mortlake, Breakfast Point, Concord, Cabarita,Abbotsford and Chiswick bus services;
  • Rockdale, Kogarah and Miranda bus services; and
  • Cross Regional bus services;
and I'd really recommend bus users to take the time to read the details and submit feedback; either online or the old fashioned way on the brochures. I've already had feedback via twitter that the new proposal doesn't address the 428 frequency and related over-crowding - if you agree, let them know - it's a rare chance. Feedback closes October 9th.

There's also a new Metro Bus route (M30) that will take you directly from Enmore to Mosman and back should the need somehow strike you. Maybe there'll suddenly be a proliferation of pearls on King Street (or tatts on Military Road).

from the council website
Finally, the Sydney Council have reduced their draft Pedestrian Cycling and Traffic Calming Plan for comment. The mayor attended the original consulting session for this (on a rainy night in Camperdown in March) - I have to say it was very professionally organised and facilitated and it's great to see that notice has been taken of the feedback. I made fun of the name earlier; but the council did explain that the name has been changed from the original 'Traffic Plan' to emphasis the community friendly aspect of the plan, rather that an emphasis on cars - and how to move them as quickly as possible.

The report (click on the 4th link in the further information section) is the most interesting document. It's well worth reading - if you're impatient jump to the recommendations on page 8. It's accompanied by some detailed maps summarising proposed changes - you can also download high-resolution versions of the maps as well.

In summary, the draft plan includes:
  • Pedestrian and cycling access improvements across the area, including intersections on Wilson Street and Abercrombie Street
  • Working with the RTA to install new crossings missing at signalised intersections and a new crossing along Mallett Street
  • Cycleway projects on Missenden Road, Wilson Street and Shepherd Street
  • Kerb extensions and additional crossings along King Street, and potential new bike parking.
We have until Friday 25th September now to prepare any comments - once again, I really recommend taking the time to check out the report and submitting any feedback - all the evidence suggests the council takes it seriously, and this plan will be the framework for changes over the next 5-10 years.

And from the photo above, it seems that the Federal government is still investigating sites a lot closer to home for Sydney's second airport ...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mystery Photo V - Jungle House

Well the last Mystery Photo didn't offer much resistance, nor generate much comment. Hopefully a few more of you will have a go at this one. Still very much in Newtown, yet looking more in place in the country perhaps, where is this jungle house located ?

Here's some plumbing detail, in case the greenery is overwhelming.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Old of Newtown

City of Sydney Council has just updated their Newtown specific history website. It's a great resource and anyone interested in Newtown is encouraged to get over there and have an explore.

I discovered it when I moved into Newtown early this century (doesn't that sound grand) but re-visiting it a couple of years ago it appeared to be abandoned, with the latest updates being a few years ago. In fact the mayor's portrait was even pilfered from there (it belongs to a real Mayor of Newtown, Alderman William Rigg); a fact that council archivist Mark Stevens pointed out to me when I wrote to him requesting permission to use some other council photos for the mystery photo series shortly after Newstown was launched !

Mark also informed me that the archive site was being updated - even better, the work has been done by a local Newtown firm, In My Room. So head on over there and check it out.

Credits, from their about page:

The Newtown project started in 2000 and is based on a concept by Graeme Nichols. Work on the site during 2000-2005 was undertaken by Graeme (who was the webmaster during this time) and other volunteers at the City of Sydney Archives. The site was redeveloped in 2009 by In My Room, a Newtown based web design firm.

We would particularly like to acknowledge the contributions of -

  • Graeme Nichols and Reg Johnson, for transcription of Sands Directory .
  • Shirley Doolan, Jan Bowditch, Jenny Kropp and Lorraine Sketch, for transcription of the Minutes of Newtown Council.
  • Mark Matheson, for biographical notes on Mayors and Aldermen, and historical notes on street names and other topics.
Mark Stevens Natasha Neal
City Archivist Webmaster

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Newtown Station - Mayor's take

In my last post I summarised what I could find regarding RailCorp's plans to upgrade Newtown Station. So what do I think about the planned upgrade ?

In some ways the plan was a surprise for me, I had been expecting the concourse to push out behind the existing station building; assuming that the insides would be fully gutted to provide a smooth access to the lifts and stairs. The actual plan is more ambitious and has the advantage of also cleaning up the mess that is the property between the station and the Townie.

Other positive aspects of the plan include the renovation of the Tramway Depot Office (above) - as well as the existing buildings that were always going to be repaired, and of course the fact that the station gets two new stairs (should reduce the crowding that occurs after every train in peak hour) as well as a lift to improve access for many people who today struggle with the stairs. I'm pretty sure a single lift will be sufficient so I'm not worried about that.

One commenter has observed that the modern "wave" look of the new retail and concourse is out of character for Newtown. It's hard to tell from the limited 'artist's impression', and I'm not a fan of faux heritage; but it is important that the new retail be sympathetic to the surrounds, without necessarily aping them. Hopefully we will be provided more detailed plans and get a chance to really see how they fit in with the surrounding buildings. From first glance the wave roof may well be too domineering for the area. I'm not sure about covering the whole area between King Street and the concourse either - it's important part of the walk way is covered so that it's possible to get to the platform dry, without a massive structure blocking out all sunlight.

My biggest worry though is the impact these plans might have on the tram sheds and remaining open space in front of them next to the station. In the Mayor's ideal world, this open space would become a public square, the Tram Sheds converted to low cost artist/designer residence with on site markets (as well as cafes etc). It would be a shame if this station upgrade blocked off access to the remainder of the open space in front of the sheds, or indeed took up too much of the space that could otherwise become part of a Newtown Town Square.

It's very hard to get accurate information on what the state of play is with the tram sheds - my recollection from the April meeting was that they had been sold to a developer a while ago, it had all gone pear-shaped and it was now in court. Fingers crossed that the situation can be saved.

Anyone got any more information on the tram sheds ? In a future post I will give more ideas on what I'd like to see happen there, but I'd love to get the full picture of the current situation.

And what do you think ? I'd love to see some comments.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Newtown Station Plans Revealed

A few months ago, your mayor attended the community information session on the oft-delayed Newtown Station upgrade, where deputy premier and local member Carmel Tebut, representing both herself and the absent RailCorp and RTA, announced that the initial proposed plans for a lift from the existing station building to the platform had been abandoned for technical reasons, and RailCorp had gone back to the drawing board, with more ambitious (and expensive plans) due for release in 3-6 months for public comment.

Credit where credit is due, last month RailCorp did indeed come out with some details on the planned upgrade and timing. While there is a glossy brochure (available at the station) describing the upgrade (from where the above image comes), details are hard to come by online. The NSW government planning site offers just an unhelpful map, and local media coverage was limited to one article in the local rags. Finally however I managed to find the Development Application on the Heritage Branch website; where it appears we have until September 16th to comment, provided we get to Parramatta for the paper copies before then ! It rather brings to mind the beginning of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

So what do we get ? The application states:
Proposal: Construction of easy access facilities including installation of one lift to the platform, new centrally located overhead concourse, two stairs to the platform, new elevated covered access walkway from street entry to the concourse, new public toilets and family accessible toilet, new platform canopies, relocation of station ticketing facilities to refurbished two storey Tramways Depot Office, new and upgraded retail premises.
What this means is that the unused area between the station and the Townie will become the station entry, with a semi-covered walkway leading down to a point past the end of the Townie, where a concourse will be built over the platform, with two new sets of stairs dropping down onto the platform, as well as the much promised lift (just one).

The picture above may help (click on it for a larger version); the building behind the tree is the Tramways Depot Office, which is proposed to become the new booking office, and the walkway runs down past it before swooping over the platform to become the new concourse and access point.

The map below gives another viewpoint; from it, it appears a new station access will be created at Thomas Street, off Newman Street.

The existing station buildings will be refurbished; and the existing stairs will disappear. The area outside the current booking office becomes part of the concourse; and the wall between it and the new access is removed. The actual booking office becomes new retail; and the adjacent 'Thundabox' building is to be (finally) renovated. It seems though that the Mayor's suggestion of a direct slippery dip from Platform 8 at the Townie has unfortunately been ignored.

Below are a few more pictures to help understand the plans.

Thundabox in its present-day glory

Current Building

New Entrance -
the chimney will presumably disappear as the wall is opened up

Kebabery to be replaced with new retail

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mystery Photo IV - Castle Walls

Back again after a break. We had a lot of fun with the Milestones mystery photo - hoping this one will also prove at least a bit of a challenge. Where in Newtown (really Newtown this time) are these imposing jungle surrounded walls ?

As usual, first prize, and all runners up, win a lifetime's free subscription to Newstown.