Monday, 26 February 2018

1999: The Forum Development at St Leonards

Above: The Forum at St Leonards. The photo was taken by the Author (2013).

More often than not, what we end up seeing built on any site can be better what might have been if an original plan or scheme had gone ahead.

The Forum at St Leonards is an excellent example.

What makes this complex so great? It is a model of how transport orientated development should be in Sydney. In fact, its a community where you can live, shop, work and have handy access to transport with St Leonards Station below the complex.

Above: St Leonards Railway Station. The photo was taken by the Author (2013).
It comprises of two apartment towers, and three ten 10 level office buildings rising above a retail podium and town square.

Above: The Forum Town Square. The photo was taken by the Author (2013).

The high elevation allows the towers to be visible from right across the city.

But how did the development evolve into what it is today?

Planning began in the late 1980s. In 1987, the State Rail Authority put to tender 7.5 hectares of land for commercial, residential and retail development. The following year, Zenith Development Corporation paid $67.3 million to lease the airspace above St Leonards Railway Station.

Source: Morris, L. 1988. "St Leonards deal an $82m boost for SRA". The Daily Telegraph, December 19: 9.

In 1990, Colliers International put the development out to tender. Two office towers of 120 metres in height along with a retail complex were proposed for the airspace above the station. At the time it was anticipated that completion would occur in 1992. St Leonards Railway Station had been relocated to the south of the Pacific Highway to enable construction of the development.

Excavation of the site had also commenced, though it was suspended by the end of 1990.

Source: Anon. 1990. "Untitled" (Artists Impression). The Sydney Morning Herald, August 28: 30.

Source: Anon. 1991. "Untitled" (Artists Impression). The Sydney Morning Herald, April 9: 30.

The recession and associated property crash of the early 1990s would delay construction for much of the decade.

By the late 1990s, a new scheme had been proposed. The office scheme was scaled back to 32 000sq/m of space (split over three buildings attached to each other on the Pacific Highway side), but two major apartment towers were to be added known as The Forum (38 stories/1999) and The Forum West (27 stories/2003). The Forum is currently the tallest tower in the suburb at 118 metres tall.

All buildings surrounded a new town square housing retail and connected directly to St Leonards Railway Station.

The development was completed in two stages with Stage 1 (eastern half) completed in 2000 with the Forum West development completed in 2003.

The development has won several awards including:
  • UDIA Award for Excellence in Masterplanned Commercial Development 2002
  • NSW Urban Taskforce – Development Excellence Award 2002 – Urban design
  • Landscape Contractors Association (NSW) – 2000 Landscape construction by a new member – recipient Universal Landscapes
  • Master Builders Association – 2000 Award for construction excellence

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Property Advert of the Week: Rockford Apartments, St Leonards (1999)

In 1999, St Leonards was undergoing change and was becoming a desirable suburb to reside in. You could own your own unit in the Rockford Apartments for just under $200 000 in 1999.

Source: Reality Apartments. 1999. "Rockford Apartments" (Advertisement). The Sydney Morning Herald, June 5: 10 (Real Estate Liftout).

Monday, 19 February 2018

MAJOR EVENT: Cityrail Strike (1999)

Above: How The Daily Telegraph reported on the strike in its second afternoon (Final) edition on September 29, 1999.

Sydney dodged a bullet several weeks ago when rail workers decided to pursue industrial action to demand a 6 % pay rise. It didn't occur as the Fair Work Commission ruled that the strike would hinder the ability of essential workers e.g. firefighters and teachers from attending work.

The current offer by the NSW Government is for a 4.6% increase in annual pay, $1000 bonus and free public transport.

Had the strike occurred, it would have been the first since 1999.

Let's look back at what happened, and for younger readers, an idea of what to expect should it collapse or if they simply want to walk off the job. Older readers would remember when strikes were normal during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Above: Page 1 of The Sydney Morning Herald on September 30, 1999.

When did it happen

September 29 1999 (Wednesday). This was a wildcat strike that was announced at 5pm, the day before giving people little notice to make alternative arrangements.

Who was in government in 1999?

The Labor party, led by Premier Bob Carr was in government.


It was in response to plans to cut 300 station staff. There was a partial shutdown on September 24, 1999, which led to reduced or delayed services. Some lines had no services at all. Station staff did not report to work.

What was the impact?

Above: Coverage from the September 30, 1999 edition of The Daily Telegraph.
  • Cost the NSW economy approximately $1.5bn in lost productivity. Media reports for the intended January 2018 strike were $100 million, far below that of 1999. A rail strike today would definitely cost at least $2bn in lost productivity.
  • Retailers and offices were forced to close. Trade in city stores was well below normal.
  • The impact extended to Melbourne, where travelers were left stranded at Spencer Street (Southern Cross) Station.
  • Petrol Prices were reported to have increased.
  • Overcrowding on city buses.
  • Congestion on Sydney roads.

Source: Pearce, R. 1999. "Untitled" (photograph). The Sydney Morning Herald, September 30, 5. 

The Sydney Morning Herald in its editorial of September 30 argued that while the NSW Government needed to justify the job cuts to station staff and supported public concerns over customer service, the strike was "unnecessary" it actually caused harm to the cause. Calling a wildcat strike only generated disruption but also didn't give commuters and businesses time to plan for the strike. How can one muster support if they intend to abruptly withdraw their services? Some will not accept strikes in any form because they feel that they have been punished in order to advance an individuals cause or because it ruins their routine.

Source: Anon. 1999. "Unnecessary rail strike" (editorial). The Sydney Morning Herald, September 30, 14. 

Doesn't punishing the Government through a work ban or fare-free days seem fairer to muster the cause like they have a number of times in recent years. Services continue but the Government loses revenue?

Above: Coverage of the strike from the September 30, 1999 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald (Pages 4 and 5).

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Property Advert of the Week: Chelsea Apartments, Chatswood (1999)

This week, we head to Chatswood. You could buy a studio apartment in the Chelsea Apartment complex for just $183 000 in 1999. 

Source: Multiplex. 1999. "AAA Investment Chatswood" (Advertisement). The Sydney Morning Herald, June 5: 10 RE (Real Estate Liftout). 

Monday, 12 February 2018

NEVER BUILT: North Sydney Civic Centre (1970)

Above: The Never Built North Sydney Civic Centre.
Source: Yeomans, J. 1970. "Sydney's Twin is Growing Up". The Sun Herald, November 15: 59.

I think this has to be the biggest proposal ever envisioned for North Sydney, but it did not become reality - the creation of a new civic centre for North Sydney. This was proposed for the site of the current Civic Centre in Miller Street.

In 1970, it was reported in The Sun Herald (November 15) that it would be the biggest Civic Centre in Australia. Apart from council offices, a new library and conference spaces, there would be a hotel and commercial office space. Construction would be overseen by Sabemo and completed in stages with final completion in 1984. Sabemo was also given a 75-year option to lease space in various towers.

Sadly it would have meant the demolition of the current council chambers building (200 Miller Street). Parts of the building date back to 1870.

During the 1980s, a small office building, public park and new library (John Stanton Library) were built on the site, the park provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of North Sydney.

Photos were taken by the Author (2016).

What if the scheme had gone ahead?
Remember this is only a possible outcome. Anything could happen. What do you think? - feel free to comment. 

The buildings in the rendering were conceptual but had they stuck to the envelopes presented, I think North Sydney's CBD would be much larger than what it is today. In fact, the focal point of North Sydney would be further north. As for development, the residential areas in nearby blocks would not exist in their low rise form today with a mixture of taller apartment buildings with office buildings. 

North Sydney would be a more viable commercial centre overall but this may have meant that St Leonards and Chatswood might not have evolved into the centres that they are today, given the office space made available by development in North Sydney.

In fact, I doubt that Chatswood's Civic Centre would have been possible if North Sydney had a larger precinct. Combine it with less commercial development and Willoughby Council would not have had the source of funding from rates to make it possible. 

Also, the existing North Sydney CBD would have seen a greater mix of residential and office buildings. As for retail, the larger working (and residential population) would have spurred demand for more retail space meaning the possibility that one could actually shop in North Sydney. Greater vibrancy would fill the streets. 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Property Advert of the Week: Birkenhead Quays (1999)

Below is an advertisement from 1999 promoting apartments in the Birkenhead Quays complex at Birkenhead Point.

Source: Kevint Project Marketing. 1999. "Birkenhead Quays" (Advertisement). The Sydney Morning Herald, April 17: 31RE (Real Estate Liftout).

Monday, 5 February 2018

MILESTONE: Tangara Trains turn 30 (1988)

Source: State Rail. 1987. "It's Coming...Sydney's 21st Century train will be here for Christmas!" (Advertisement). The Daily Telegraph, December 16: 39. 

This year, Sydney's Tangara Trains turn 30.

Introduced into service on Sydney's rail network in 1988, they are the third generation of electric trains to enter into service.

At present, there are 447 carriages in service, more than any other model on the network. The fleet servicing the Illawarra and Eastern Suburbs Rail Line (T4) are virtually Tangara's.

The Wran Government announced in 1984 that they would purchase 450 new carriages to operate on the rail network. At the time, Barrie Unsworth was Transport Minister. Designs for the train were finalised the following year. Capacity would be approximately 2 200, compared with 2 050 on existing double decker trains.

Source: State Rail. 1988. "A ticket to the 21st Century" (Advertisement). The Daily Telegraph, January 11: 6. 

Tangara (Aboriginal word for "to go") promised 21st-century features and a number of firsts for Sydney Trains including:

  • Electronic Final Destination Indicators (eventually installed on S set trains).
  • Security Cameras
  • Air conditioning
  • Vandal Resistant features e.g. fixed seating which was not popular with commuters. 
  • Better Seating and legroom
  • Bigger Windows
  • Reduced Noise inside and outside.
  • Smoother Acceleration and Breaking.

Above: Advertisement promoting the Tangara. Date unknown.

Some Tangara's were configured for intercity services providing toilets, reversible seating and luggage racks. However, when Tangara's were confined to suburban services in recent years, toilets were removed. 

The Tangara made its first appearance on December 20, 1987, at Central Station. By now, Unsworth was Premier.  

Source: Russell, M. 1987. "Transport on track for next century". The Daily Telegraph, December 21: 5. 

On January 28, 1988 it made its first trip from Rockdale to Oatley. 

Source: Nicholson, N. 1988. "Voters' express: tickets, please". The Daily Telegraph, January 29: 5.

It must be noted that Rockdale was in Unsworth's electorate of the same name and the most marginal seat for Labor in NSW. Oatley was in the margnial seat of Georges River held by Housing Minister Frank Walker. It was a good political ploy with a State Election weeks away. 

Source: Anon. 1988. "Commuters give train thumbs-up". The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, February 2: 5. 

Sadly for Unsworth, Tangara's would not operate on timetabled services until just after the 1988 State Election which saw the end of 12 years of Labor Government in NSW. According to The Daily Telegraph, they commenced operating on timetabled services on April 12, 1988. 

Source: Clark, S. 1988. "Tangara proves it's on the right track". The Daily Telegraph, July 20: page unknown. 

The rollout of Tangara carriages continued until 1995. 

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Property Advert of the Week: Grandview Apartments, Milsons Point (1999)

We have returned with our weekly Property Adverts. This week, I present an advertisement from 1999 for the Grandview Apartments at Milsons Point.

Source: Grandview Apartments. 1999. "Grandview Apartments, Milsons Point" (Advertisement). The Sydney Morning Herald, June 5: 11RE (Real Estate Liftout).