Monday, 18 September 2017

MILESTONE: Pitt Street Mall turns 30 (1987)

Tomorrow is thirty years since the Pitt Street Mall was officially opened to the people of Sydney.

It is believed that planning the mall dated as far back as 1970.

In 1980, Sydney City Council released a plan to close off Pitt Street between Market and King Streets with the intention of eventually extending it through to Martin Place and Hunter Street.

Castlereagh Street would become two way for buses, taxi's and delivery vehicles.

In 1982, the plan was amended to focus only on the mall running between Market and King Street and restricting through traffic from Hunter Street to Park Street.

By 1985, Sydney was the only Australian Capital City without a retail plaza, despite being the first Australian City to turn streets into plazas as evidenced through Martin Place during the 1970s. The NSW Government vetoed a Sydney City Council proposal to create the mall.

A year later, the NSW Government gave approval which was welcomed by city retailers, anticipating increased trade following the success of similar malls elsewhere. By November, plans were finalised.

Source: Aubin, T. 1986. "Pitt Street to turn into a pink mall". The Sydney Morning Herald, November 7: 5. 

Work commenced in February 1987. The biggest impact on construction was on city traffic as drivers had to adjust to changes which continue to this day. For example, motorists now drove north up Pitt Street to Market Street as opposed to south in previous years. Two-way traffic was allowed on Pitt Street from King to Hunter Streets, but it would become southbound only.

The changes are best illustrated in this advertisement published prior to the closure:

Source: Sydney City Council. 1987. "Changes to City Traffic plan" (Advertisement). The Daily Telegraph, January 27: 15. 

Below is media coverage of the chaos for city drivers.

Source: Morris, L. & AAP. 1987. "Mall work creates city traffic chaos". The Daily Telegraph, February 10: 9. 

People did quickly claim the street. 

After seven months of construction, the mall was officially opened by NSW Premier Barrie Unsworth on September 19, 1987. It was built at a cost of $5 million.

Source: Harris, S. 1987. "Pitt St Mall only a start - Unsworth. The Sunday Telegraph, September 20: page unknown. 

A special party night was held on September 24 as retailers were permitted to trade through to

Source: Anon. 1987. "Pitt St Mall jam packed on party night". The Daily Telegraph, September 25: page unknown.

The mall itself in 2017 is vastly different from 1987, having undergone a number of upgrades. The most recent upgrade was in 2010-2011 coinciding with the redevelopment of the Westfield Sydney Complex.

Pitt Street Mall has proven to be a big success for Sydney. It is now a popular shopping destination, given its broad appeal to city workers, residents and tourists. The demand for retail space has made the mall one of the most expensive shopping strips in the world to lease. International retailers have also made their presence felt, particularly in the past decade including Uniqlo, Sephora and Zara.

The Pitt Street Mall in recent times. Photo taken by the Author (2016).

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