News

1 Sep 2015

Why Sydney Uni wants to demolish Seymour Centre

Theaters are in short supply and if Sydney University has its way, the Seymour Center will be demolished in favor of a subway station. The University previously shuttered the Footbridge Theater on Parramatta Road more than a decade ago. Losing the Seymour Center would sever its links to the performing arts.

The University wants the subway station so it can redevelop the space above, currently occupied by the Seymour Center Theaters and the Faculty of Architecture. In a submission to the State Government the University proposes a mix of student accommodation and retail facilities, over a subway station aligned along Maze Crescent. A major entry point would be at the junction of City Road and Cleveland Street.

Inconveniently the theater complex sits there, so it will need to be removed.

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The Sydney Metro and Southwest line is an extension of the North West Rail Line which is under construction. The line itself is almost certain to proceed, looping out from Chatwood in the north, through new stations on the northside before tunneling under the harbor to a new station at Barangaroo.

Located between Barangaroo South and the Barangaroo Reserve, the 5.2 hectare Central Barangaroo site will be the last part of Barangaroo to be completed. It is currently being assessed for the new subway station, which must be excavated before any further work is done.

Barangaroo

Unlike Sydney University – Australia’s largest and richest – Barangaroo has the site ready for digging. So what does a subway station excavation look like? CX drove out along the North West Rail Line to see.

There are eight stations under construction, mostly underground. A typical station is around 18,000 square metres, but the work sites are considerably larger. The Bella Vista station site plan is below. These sites are considerably larger than a city site as they typically will also provide consumer car parking when completed.

Bella Vista Construction site

But they are large. A city subway station will be dug a lot deeper than the 20 metre Northwest stations and even if a method of transporting precast sections, instead of building them onsite, can be found, a lot of real estate will be needed.

So what would this look like transposed onto the Seymour Center environs?

Seymour 1

The yellow box (above) is an 18,000 square metre approximation of a subway station – once it is dug. To get the thing dug you need an awfully big construction pit and even if it doesn’t have precasting facilities it still needs to be big. Typically two tunnel boring machines are lowered into the pit, before they start to grind off towards the next station.

If the University station site were as large as any of the current sites on the North West Link, it would decimate the whole south-east corner of the University. Check out the blue overlay on the site, below. Somehow I can’t see this happening. But whatever they do, one thing is certain.

If the University gets its wish then it’s curtains for the Seymour Center Theaters.

Seymour 2

Thankfully this is not certain. The State Government has two options for this section of its new rail line. The line itself must happen – currently the North West Line ends at Chatswood – near CX HQ. When this opens in four years, tens of thousands of commuters will get off the dedicated North West Line, forced to change trains and join the already crowded Northern Line.

This will create vast political heat, so the belated and delayed extension into the city will need to be visibly under construction or the Government will be seen to be incompetent. Of course they should have built the whole thing in one line, or stuck to the original plan and kept it all on the uniform Sydney train  design instead of changing over to a unique and incompatible metro design.

But the Sydney University station is less likely than the other possible option, a station several kilometers east at Waterloo, where tens of thousands of home units are under construction and where there is already gridlock due to limited transport options.

Should Sydney University get its way, the Uni will continue its transformation from a blue stone education hub to a major property developer. Make no mistake, the big city universities are enormously flush with cash from big expansion into international education.

Sydney University is currently suffering reputational damage from student plagiarism scandals, and exam cheating allegations. They need to focus on their charter, we think, rather than on expansion. But I digress.

The University says they need the transport link for their students, despite being well served by Redfern, Central and Newtown railways stations and multiple bus routes. Or students can do what they have done for 150 years – and walk there from the city.

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