Sydneysiders have had an early Christmas present this year – their first taste of what the all-new George Street will look like when the CBD and South East Light Rail is complete.
Two city blocks along George Street have been re-opened to the public for the first time providing more space for pedestrians.
The two blocks between King Street and Park Street have been completely redesigned. Road surfaces have been replaced with the stone-paved track area and levelled with adjacent footpaths, while new underground services, light poles, street furniture and trees have been added.
Designed by ASPECT Studios, who are leading the public domain design along the 12-kilometre corridor of the CBD and South East Light Rail. Together with Transport for NSW, the light rail consortium led by ALTRAC Light Rail, and City of Sydney, ASPECT is working with multi-disciplinary teams of transport and civil engineers, architects, heritage consultants, lighting designers, arborists, design managers, safety consultants and operators.
“What’s happening on George Street is remarkable. This is a particularly complex part of the city and light rail project, and includes the most dramatic transformation – from a heavy traffic and bus dominated road, to a high quality, pedestrian-oriented shared zone in the heart of the CBD.” says Kate Luckraft, Studio Director, ASPECT Studios.
When complete, this new pedestrian zone will extend from Bathurst Street through to Hunter Street, with four city blocks upgraded with new paving and urban elements between the light rail stops at Town Hall, QVB and Wynyard.
Along the new pedestrian zone, the street has been made level with the footpaths, paved in dark grey granite, with the rails set in a ribbon of light grey stone for increased visibility. Only approved local traffic vehicles will be permitted in the pedestrian zone where pedestrians and light rail vehicles will be given priority.
ASPECT has used the City of Sydney’s public domain furniture palette of seating, garbage bins, pedestrian light poles, water fountains, tree guards/grate throughout. This award-winning furniture palette, designed for the City by Tzannes, has two suites of elements— stainless steel for the city centre, and a ‘bronze’ suite for surrounding suburbs and ‘villages’.
The project implements the furniture range on a large scale from Circular Quay through to Bourke Street Surry Hills, establishing a consistent language of furniture elements throughout the public domain upgraded by the light rail project.
Grimshaw architects are designing the stops throughout the light rail project, using bronze and stainless steel to complement the city’s palette and establish a clear identity for light rail stops.
ASPECT’s Kate Luckraft says: “A lot of work went into clarifying the public domain of this historic street to carefully integrate the infrastructure of the light rail system so that the resultant spaces are people-centric, functional and beautiful”.
Power for a part of the CBD and South East Light Rail line is delivered via a third rail in the pedestrian zone and with new SmartPoles also in this section, there are no overhead cables in this part of the city, allowing the historic building facades to feature in the precinct.
A similar system was used in the French city of Bordeaux in 2003, when a new light rail system was installed into its World-Heritage-listed streets, catalysing the type of urban renewal that George Street is now undergoing.
The unveiling comes as giant wreaths and Christmas lights are installed along the boulevard for the holiday season.