Suburban high streets are the biggest competitive threat to Sydney’s central business district in more than three decades, but a new report suggests dozens of strategies to attract people back to the bright lights of the city.
Ernst & Young, Australia (“EY Australia”), in collaboration with Investment NSW and with the support of the Hon Stuart Ayres, NSW Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, has today released FLICKING THE SWITCH: Research and insights to help Sydney’s CBD turn the lights on a new era.
EY Sweeney – EY Australia’s market research team – interviewed more than 3,000 Sydneysiders to understand evolving attitudes to their CBD and the activities and activations that would entice people back.
The report finds that a ‘local area awakening’, following two years of travel restrictions, has de-positioned the CBD in the minds of many, but not all, Sydneysiders.
Responses are polarised between two extremes: those who say they ‘don’t feel the need to return to the CBD to find great experiences’ (32%); and those who are ‘more likely to visit the CBD for activities then they did pre-COVID’ (35%).
“Before Covid-19 one small 2.8 square kilometre area was responsible for 9.4% of Australia’s GDP growth. The CBD matters not just to our city but to our nation,” said Selina Short, EY Oceania Managing Partner, Real Estate and Construction.
“As the geography of work changes, the CBD must evolve from a place of business into a Central Experience District. While there is no one strategy or solution, our report offers a range of ideas and initiatives that can enhance the character and brands of specific CBD precincts to create new and unique experiences and business opportunities.”
Ms Short said many of these strategies and solutions were “no big surprise” to the researchers. Many suggestions, such as cheaper and easier parking, more reliable public transport and safer streets, would address pre-existing challenges before the pandemic.
“But some of the solutions offered by those we interviewed were more intriguing – like more green roofs, walls and streets, and more al fresco dining. People love their CBD but the pandemic has changed the way they interact with space,” Ms Short added.
On launching the report at EY’s George Street offices, Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Stuart Ayres said the report released today is an exciting new roadmap for inner Sydney’s future.
“The CBD is extremely valuable to Sydney’s economy and global identity,” Mr Ayres said.
“The key findings from this independent research show our long-term efforts to energise the 24-hour economy and revitalise our CBD is working.
“An additional 31 projects are set to stimulate local urban centres, funded through our $50 million CBDs Revitalisation Program. This report will help us build on that success and create ways for everyone to enjoy the harbour city.”
24-Hour Economy Commissioner Michael Rodrigues said we want as many people back into our cities as possible and we must understand what will entice them back.
“I am optimistic about our city’s future. The pandemic has created new trends in how people access the CBD, it is now a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape Sydney’s future and make it an even more attractive place to visit to play, to work, to live,” Mr Rodrigues said.
“This report provides a compelling vision on what we could do to seize this opportunity to reimagine a global city that never sleeps.”
Click here to view the report.