Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore believes parts of the city’s iconic gay neighbourhood Oxford Street will be under construction during Sydney WorldPride 2023. 

In an interview with Star Observer, Ellsmore said, “We are going through this process at the moment, again, everyone supported it, to have an LGBTQI Place Strategy for Oxford Street. But that’s happening after the decision has already been made about what the street looks like. And [Oxford Street] is now going to be under construction for WorldPride.” 

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Ellsmore voted against proceeding with the Oxford Street redevelopment planning rules until after a cultural strategy was finalised.  “I hope that the decision that was made about allowing most of Oxford Street to be massively redeveloped will lead to revitalisation. It’s a pretty blunt instrument.” 

No Protections For LGBTQI Venues

She went on to call attention to the fact that there are “no protections in [the planning rules] that LGBTQI venues be protected, or that businesses will be LGBTQI friendly, for example, because you can’t do that with the planning rules.”

“I hope I’m wrong but I am worried that all that’s happened is the council decided to let developers do what they wanted to do on Oxford Street in the hope it would revitalize because there was a need to do something. But it’s not actually going to deliver what anyone wants”

She reiterated that voting for the planning rules early has led to a situation where, “a lot of Oxford street is going to be under construction during World Pride, which is also not an outcome that anybody wanted.” 

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Ellsmore is confident that the city will do everything it can to mitigate any of this disruption but says, “unfortunately there will be disruption.”

According to a City of Sydney spokesperson, “While there will be limited development on Oxford Street during next year’s WorldPride, we are not aware of any venue closures that are planned for during the event.

“The City of Sydney is committed to making sure the strip is as attractive as possible during this important event and is working closely with the community to ensure Oxford Street is operating at its maximum potential.

“We are aware of discussions between building owners and WorldPride about the possible use of pop-up properties during the event.  Where construction hoardings are necessary, the City will work closely with property owners to ensure the buildings are wrapped creatively and attractively, with artwork that helps Oxford Street sparkle.”

Revitalising Oxford Street

Plans For Oxford Street. Image: City of Sydney

For years, Oxford Street has been plagued with high vacancies, aggressive vehicle traffic and the absence of a sustainable plan. In October 2021, the City of Sydney asked for community feedback on a plan to revitalise the renowned LGBTQI strip. 

The plan allows property developers to increase floor space and building height along Oxford Street if they dedicate at least 10% to cultural and creative purposes. 

When asked what she would like to accomplish for the LGBTQI community during the current council term, Ellsmore said she wants to build on the strengths of the city.

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One of the things she believes the City of Sydney has done really well is “being very strong and supportive of its LGBTQI communities.”

Walking Across The Harbour Bridge For WorldPride

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2020 at Oxford Street. Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna

Ellsmore added, however, that “community changes and the challenges that communities are facing changes and that’s particularly, for us, gentrification, losing affordable venues, losing affordable places for people to live in the city, particularly for younger LGBTQI people.” 

For Sydney WorldPride 2023, Ellsmore is most looking forward to walking across the Harbour Bridge.

Sydney WorldPride 2023 To Showcase City’s Iconic Locations & Celebrate LGBT Community: Kate Wickett

“There’s going to be amazing parties and it’s going to be Mardi Gras plus, plus on steroids, but for me, something like the big bridge walk with the whole communities is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Ellsmore was elected to the City of Sydney Council in 2021.



 

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