I sent the following e-mail to all City of Sydney Councillors this afternoon about the proposals (see here and item 7 at this link) for Council to upgrade Fitzroy Gardens and Lawrence Hargrave Reserve in Kings Cross.
I am writing to you in relation to the recommendation about the refurbishment of Fitzroy Gardens and Lawrence Hargrave Reserve for Monday’s Environment and Heritage Committee. I have read the concept plans and community consultation documents.
Council has undertaken some excellent park renewals, most notably the Paddington Reservoir. However, I feel that the Fitzroy Gardens proposal is still off-mark. The concept plan would change the character of the gardens, which should be retained.
I urge Council to:
(i) note (instead of endorse) the key design directions for the upgrade of Lawrence Hargrave Reserve, and
(ii) request an amended concept plan for Fitzroy Gardens that substantially retains the existing character and design of the gardens.
Lawrence Hargrave Reserve needs refurbishment, but it would be prudent for Council to undertake the full feasibility study before endorsing key design directions. For example, it would not be useful to endorse the removal of the top level of the car park if the feasibility study subsequently found removing it did not provide overall benefits to the community.
Fitzroy Gardens does not need a complete redesign and rebuild (as is proposed). Council has never demonstrated that a wholesale redesign of the Gardens is needed, and this is reflected by community opposition to the proposal. While the proposed concept design is much closer to the existing gardens than were the 2008 concepts, it would still lead to a complete overhaul of the gardens. “Renewal” is different to “a complete overhaul”.
Two key elements of this overhaul are replacing the existing hexagonal design element with a “flower” shape element (the source of which is unclear) and replacing a number of “rooms” in the gardens (e.g. on the east) with a single “room” sloping down to Baroda Rd. I am opposed to those elements as they would substantially change the character of the gardens.
There are some positive elements of the concept plan including a shared pedestrian/slow vehicle zone on Baroda St, a more clearly defined pedestrian zone along the old Elizabeth Bay Rd, and attempts to improve the children’s play area. Any concept plan should include these positive elements while substantially retaining the existing design of the gardens.