The Perth City Link is arguably the city’s most important urban renewal project. With the opening of the Perth Arena and the significant works being undertaken on the site, we thought it was timely to provide some background and explanation of the project. Taylor Burrell Barnett has had the privilege of working on the project and leading the Master Plan since 2005. And we, like so many others, look forward to walking between Wellington and Roe Street through new public spaces in the next few years.
The Perth City Link project is a collaboration between the Government of Western Australia, through the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (initially EPRA) and Public Transport Authority, Australian Government and City of Perth.
Bordered by the Mitchell Freeway, Roe and Wellington Streets and the Horseshoe Bridge, planning for the project commenced in 2003 with the City of Perth’s preparation of a document titled ‘Realising a new vision for Perth.’ This document advocated sinking the rail line from the Horseshoe Bridge to the Freeway.
In 2004, the government announced that as the planning authority for the area, the MRA would develop an Indicative Development Plan (IDP) and business case assessment on sinking the railway line to connect Northbridge and the city.
In early 2005, the Premier unveiled the proposal to sink the Fremantle rail line to enable a connection between King and Lake Streets; an underground bus station to replace the ageing Wellington Street station, and subsequent redevelopment of the project area. The City of Perth agreed to contribute $25 million to the project, along with land holdings.
Later that year, MRA engaged a consortium of planning, design and engineering consultants led by Taylor Burrell Barnett to develop a detailed draft Master Plan for the area, to guide development for the next 20 years.
The draft Master Plan was launched in early 2007 and was revised, based on community feedback, as the final Master Plan in early 2008.
The Master Plan was updated through a review of the eastern-most part of the project area, focussed on the Horseshoe Bridge Plaza, in 2009 and the approval of a broad-level Development Application for the Channel Seven-owned Entertainment Centre land.
The Perth City Link will reunite the Perth city centre with the Northbridge entertainment district and incorporates the newly opened multi-purpose indoor entertainment and sports stadium, Perth Arena, developed by the Department of Building, Management and Works. It will achieve a range of benefits for the community including improved access and connectivity, increased residential, retail and commercial opportunities and a high quality public domain.
History of “The Great Divide”
The city centre and Northbridge were originally divided in 1881 when the fledgling Swan River colony stumbled towards its first economic prosperity – the 1890s gold rush. The original Fremantle-Perth-Guildford rail lines separated the city, and Northbridge grew apace as the colony launched headlong into the period of unprecedented growth. Suddenly the sleepy capital was a boom town swelled by thousands of fortune seekers from all parts of the globe.
The city centre became one huge construction site, hungry for building supplies and goods and services of all descriptions. By the early 1900s, the demand for the transportation of passengers and freight was so great the central railway precinct had mushroomed into a “great area of yards and squalid sheds of ill-conceived contrivance”.
The railway barrier was not only physical. For some, it represented a social or psychological divide and a growth in perception that the rapidly expanding area to the north of the line was “the wrong side of the tracks”.
As today, it was a formidable barrier and difficult to cross safely.
The ingenious engineering solution to the difficulty of crossing the mass of rail lines was the 1903 construction of horseshoe-shaped bridge. The Horseshoe Bridge is now a significant part of Western Australia’s built heritage.
In 1911, the then Government Architect, George Temple-Poole, produced a sketch using the railway reserve land for a series of civic buildings to create “Perth as it should be”, relocating the railway further north, but the plan was not implemented.
Today, the Perth City Link is the opportunity to deliver the long-mooted reconnection of the city and Northbridge.
The vision of the Master Plan is to:
Link the city centre and Northbridge with vibrant urbanism that embraces the city’s lifestyle and character, and distinctly reflects Perth’s 21st century aspirations.
Perth City Link will be a new precinct of urban life in the heart of Perth; a place for all ages, incomes, lifestyles and families, where areas of lively activity are mixed with places of respite. It will include the creation of great streets and promenades that connect a diverse range of public spaces and truly integrates Northbridge with the city centre. People will enjoy safe and inviting movement by foot, bicycle, bus and car, through a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Perth City Link will be a place where shops, housing, restaurants, services, entertainment and high-class transportation come together to create a special place for Western Australians and recognition on the world stage. The vision for Perth City Link is the formation of a bold urban neighbourhood, a model for sustainable urban living woven into the fabric of Perth.
With the redevelopment of the Perth City Link, the city will have a place of new life, supported by a revitalised transit hub and an iconic Arena, with a new urban neighbourhood between.
The Perth City Link project, through the Master Plan, seeks to strengthen the growth of increased vitality and excitement, combined with the ambience of a city that is renowned for its natural assets, friendliness, landscape beauty and cleanliness.
The building scale and active street edges proposed in the Master Plan are qualities that remain consistent with the city centre. The design of the numerous urban spaces and widened streets will represent a new approach to the traditional Perth urban structure qualities.
In addition to the new approach to landscaping and architecture, Perth City Link will establish a new sense of difference and change for the city through the Perth Arena, Horseshoe Bridge Plaza and Kings Square, the central transit and land use nexus, and the demonstration of world-class city centre living for Perth.
TBB’s Perth City Link team
- Ben De Marchi – Director (Master Plan Team Leader; urban design and urban planning)
- Sarah Davies – Senior Associate (urban planning)
- Rachel Chapman – Senior Associate (urban planning)
- Andrew Patterson – Senior Planner (urban planning)
- Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.mra.wa.gov.au/Projects/Perth-City-Link
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