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City of Sydney backs plan to reinvent Kings Cross

May 12, 2020

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Author: Angus Thompson

Date: 13 May 2020

Kings Cross laneways would be enlivened, a major theatre installed and its railway station revamped as part of a plan to reinvent the former entertainment precinct in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The City of Sydney has given think tank Committee for Sydney the green light to work with the local liquor industry, businesses and other stakeholders to provide recommendations on how to jump-start the night-time economy and bring domestic and international visitors back to the area.

“Kings Cross is one of the most prominent and internationally renowned precincts in Sydney. However, in recent years it has struggled to define the nature of its area,” the Committee for Sydney said in its proposal for the project, adding the precinct now lacked an overarching “narrative” and that it needed to learn how to balance “naughty and nice” like cities such as Amsterdam.

A council report produced for its Corporate, Finances, Properties and Tenders Committee said Sydney’s one-time red-light district had lost its identity, and the area’s remaining businesses were struggling to attract new visitors in the wake of the state government’s lockout restrictions, a situation compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is critical the [council] supports the nightlife industry to position itself well for recovery, particularly in areas like Kings Cross that have been previously significantly impacted by the NSW government’s lockout laws,” the report said.

The council committee unanimously voted on Monday to approve a $40,000 grant for the think tank – whose members include several local councils, universities, and government agencies – to develop a plan to revitalise the strip.

The proposal included the idea of prioritising laneways for pedestrians, expanding the shoulder of footpaths, encouraging outdoor entertainment.

It also suggested improving the “look and feel” of Kings Cross railway station as part of a strategy to enhance late-night transport in and out of the area: “At the moment, the train station resembles a 1980s New York subway station: dark, grubby and feeling not particularly safe, especially at night.”

But central to the plan to reinvigorate the area’s nightlife is a push to reopen the old Minerva theatre on Orwell Street in Potts Point, and “the creation of a new theatre and arts precinct” around it. The theatre was last year bought by Abacus Property Group from film director George Miller.

Dulcie’s Kings Cross bar owner Brandon Martignago, who is leading an action group to reclaim the art-deco building as a 1500-seat theatre, said there needed to be a new reason for people to come back to the area.

“Everyone knows that things need to change here,” Mr Martignago said, adding he would like to see Kings Cross reborn as a creative precinct.

Helen Crossing, convener of 2011 Residents’ Association, said she was supportive of the plan, especially the push for the theatre, but the issues of noise and rubbish collection would need to be addressed.

“There’s a real need to put some really solid thinking into how do we do this … without doing a kind-of patch-up job,” Ms Crossing said.

She said she also had concerns about what a “night-time economy” meant. “We need to think sensibly about what that actually is, and what might appeal to people at different times of the evening.”

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