The City of Sydney held its first GLBT forum on Tuesday which began as a spruik of the new Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan and existing Oxford St cultural plans, but became dominated by community concerns about not wanting to wait 22 years to feel safe and socially included.
The Green, Global and Connected strategy wasn’t just about greenhouse gases and the environment, city CEO Monica Barone said, but making Sydney’s workers, residents and visitors feel comfortable, welcome and included.
Two of the 10 planned activity hubs for community and transport centres will be located in Oxford St, Darlinghurst and King St, Newtown. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said both would be likely to be strongly influenced by the gay and lesbian community. The community would also benefit from opened up pedestrian corridors to other hubs with a strong gay and lesbian presence including Surry Hills and Glebe.
Safety comes from access-ibility and pedestrian-friendly areas. People should be able to walk and be safe anywhere in the city while holding hands with your partner, Moore said.
She said it was hard convincing the RTA to ease Oxford Street’s traffic burden to meet her vision for the strip.
Surry Hills police commander Donna Adney agreed the strip was not pedestrian-friendly, but the biggest problems stemmed from the alcohol saturation on Oxford St and that was more than just a police concern.
Licensed venues need to take responsibility. I can’t arrest every drunk person on Oxford St, and I too don’t want to wait 22 years [for street safety], Adney said.
Tenders are being reviewed for the first phase of the planned Oxford St revitalisation which will include a food and services emporium with an emphasis on quality outlets and bringing in core anchor tenants that would lure additional businesses.
Later phases would involve a facade upgrade of City-owned buildings, a 47-room boutique hotel, an upmarket Taylor Square restaurant with a Louvre-style glass facade, and turning Foley St into a Melbourne-style vibrant alley for retail and hospitality outlets.
But some residents at the forum questioned if this was the right strategy.
Oxford St came about because people took advantage of cheap rent in a run-down area and some corruption. I think by competing with Singapore we’re losing that, one resident said.
Former Pop Shop co-owner Robert Tate questioned whether it was time to accept that the nostalgic vision of Oxford St was already dead.
It may be time to move on. Let’s not preclude moving to higher ground, he said.
A concrete plan to improve the cultural identity of the strip was being prepared for the city’s budget process. A new affordable housing development is also planned for Glebe, and a major new facility on top of Newtown station.