The City of Sydney is planning to give Oxford St back to gays, artists and older people after endorsing a new cultural strategy for the strip this week.
New branding around Taylor Square to reinforce the gay and lesbian cultural heritage and ownership of the area was one recommendation of the report by Urban Cultures Ltd’s Dr John Montgomery.
He also called for GLBTQ organisations lost to the inner-west to be returned and co-located in a building in the precinct.
“As many of the area’s distinctive characteristics result from its association with the GLBTQ communities, the report supports reinforcing that connection,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
The strategy covers not just the largely defunct Golden Mile but all the way to Centennial Park, and claims the name “Oxford Street” is too vague.
The area from Taylor Square to Victoria Barracks could be given a new name and also become home to a new cinema cluster or contemporary art gallery.
Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard welcomed the strategy, calling it long overdue.
“One of the failings of the Oxford St upgrade was it morphed away a sense of the unique strip. We need to do more than just putting up the rainbow flags on the banner poles,” he said.
Mallard had previously campaigned for a gay and lesbian art and media gallery and was pleased to see those ideas back in consideration.
But he said it was also important for community institutions like Twenty10, Pride and even ACON to have access to rent-controlled council property on Oxford St.
“Over time the council put everyone under commercial rates, which is a lot higher than the commercial rate in Newtown [where they moved to save money],” he said.
“These are culturally important organisations which we should be giving more subsidy to than just upping to full-on commercial rates.”
Twenty10 executive officer Meredith Turnbull said reduced rents would be attractive, but the service had built a positive relationship with Marrickville Council since its departure from Darlinghurst in the 1980s.
“To decide to move again may have big implications for our service users and our community standing,” she said.
The vision for a harmonious, thriving Oxford St by 2015 took aim at the precinct’s nightlife, saying 24-hour hotels and clubs playing loud music are damaging the strip’s reputation.
A key priority was to “develop an evening economy that appeals to older people and art lovers as opposed to 18- to 25-year-old club and pub goers”.
Echoing Moore’s frequent statements, the report called for a promenade where people might simply stroll about.
“This route should be well-lit in the evenings, and have good evening activity along its frontages: a café, bar or restaurant at least every 20 metres to generate natural surveillance,” it read.
If some of this sounds familiar, that’s because the City already has many outstanding plans for the area: Taylor Square South redesign, Taylor Square North adaptive re-use project, Oxford St Retail Strategy, Oxford St Safety Strategy, event programming for Mardi Gras, and supporting the Darlinghurst Business Partnership’s business strategy.
The City will now seek public comment on the implementation, to be budgeted for the next financial year.
Moore also achieved a win with the passing of new liquor laws through Parliament last week, which she claims will encourage smaller, safer bars.
Poll: Is it too late to save Oxford St? Vote at www.ssonet.com.au.

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