Government architect sets the scene for Gosford CBD

The state finance building (right) under construction next to the ATO & Bonython Tower well under way in Mann St

The Central Coast Co-ordinator General, Ms Lee Shearer, and the Government Architect have launched an intensive four-week campaign, called Go Gosford, to give the community its say on the revitalisation of Gosford City Centre.

Ms Shearer commissioned an Urban Design Implementation Framework (UDIF) for Gosford in August 2017, and has held six workshops, including with other State Government agencies and Central Coast Council staff, to gather information for the Government Architect to prepare the UDIF. In terms of what the city and region will end up with as a result of the UDIF, Ms Shearer said: “It will have some very clear parameters about what areas are key, how any DAs, when they come forward, will be assessed, they will have visuals about what this city should look like.”

In terms of money available from the NSW Government to deliver the vision, Ms Shearer said: “The money is always a question that will need to be resolved, and that is really not within my capacity to resolve. “We will be looking at the best ways to implement the outcomes of the architect’s work and if there are proposals that need to be taken forward for money, that will be considered at the right time,” she said. “The main focus for us is, how do we activate this city? “Often the money does look after itself,” she said, citing the rejuvenation of Newcastle and Parramatta as recent success stories.

The NSW Department of Planning has launched a Go Gosford website as another avenue for the public to share their ideas. The public has also been invited to participate in a photo competition. The website launch was announced at a workshop hosted by Ms Shearer and the Government Architect on February 27. “With a revitalised Gosford City Centre so crucial to the development of the Central Coast, it’s vital we continue to engage the community to understand how people want their regional capital to evolve,” she said. Ms Shearer said she and the Government Architect had learned a great deal about expectations for Gosford at the first six workshops. “We have learned that there is a real appetite for things to happen here and to activate this city,” she said.

“We have learned that the people who work and live in this area want a place to come and enjoy and play. “We have learned that they certainly want the waterfront to be something more than it is at the moment,” she said. “Gosford is so important from a regional perspective. “It is the driver of economic development. It is the driver of jobs, if you get it right,” she said. Ms Shearer and the Government Architect have not yet held a workshop for the Central Coast Councillors but will be doing so. Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith, who attended the February 27 community workshop, said: “I am disappointed that the Coordinator General and Government Architect have not come to the elected council to workshop very early in the process.

“Councillors are elected to represent the community and should have been part of the process right from the beginning,” Mayor Smith said. “I have asked for some clarification about the Coordinator General’s delegations and I did receive correspondence from Mr Scot MacDonal, that indicated that the Planning Minister has given the Coordinator General delegations under Section 23 of the NSW EP&A Act,” Mayor Smith said. The Mayor said that the elected Council and its staff were already working on activating council-owned property in the CBD and tackling issues such as parking. Mr Ben Hewitt, NSW’s Deputy Government Architect, said the team charged with delivering the UDIF for Gosford would be taking a design-led approach. “It is a fundamental belief that we have that we need to involve as many people as possible as early as possible,” Mr Hewitt told the participants of the workshop. Mr Hewitt said the Government Architect’s work for Gosford would be born out of what had already been put in play, including the Our City, Our Destiny masterplan of 2010.

The masterplan included the Gosford school land being part of a cultural precinct. However, the area was later rezoned to facilitate the sale of the school site by the NSW Government, and it is now occupied by the ATO, the NSW Government finance building, and the proposed St Hillier’s mixed-use precinct. Ms Shearer said she understood the community’s disquiet about the loss of the school site but it was time to focus on the fact that its redevelopment had resulted in 1,000 new jobs for the city. Mr Hewitt said he believed Gosford was suffering from planning fatigue, a lack of quality stock in terms of buildings, the longterm timeframes for new developments and a high perceived investment risk.

He said the first six workshops had revealed that Gosford’s stakeholders wanted the city to have cultural vitality, a healthy economy and a protected environment. However, those stakeholders were unable to name places and landmarks that they valued, apart from Kibble Park. “Relative to other regional centres, Gosford is starting to build, but does not have the facilities of other cities,” he said. To date, the focus of investment had been on the hospital and the waterfront, but they were geographically too far apart to lead to a revitalisation of the CBD. The Government Architect had identified four places that could be sites for more government investment to catalyse private investment. Those four places were the subject of discussion at the workshop. They were: Kibble Park and surrounds, called the civic heart; city park and surrounds, called opening the door; the area west of the station, including the hospital and schools; and, the waterfront, described by Mr Hewitt as a “unique and amazing asset”. At the outset of the workshop, Mr Hewitt said he hoped the period of intensive consultation, including Go Gosford, would uncover “what has not yet been understood that needs to be in play”.

Source: Media release, Feb 26 Matt Porter, NSW Department of Planning and Environment Interview, Feb 27 Lee Shearer, Coordinator General Central Coast Interview, Feb 27 Jane Smith, Central Coast Council Workshop notes, Feb 27 Ben Hewitt, NSW Government Architect Jackie Pearson, journalist