Council's Taylor Square plan 'not new'
A proposal announced earlier this week by City of Sydney to transform the Taylor Square substation has been criticised by some as a last-minute sweetener ahead of Saturday’s council elections, with one candidate campaigning against Lord Mayor Clover Moore alleging that plans to renew the building have been on the drawing board for at least the past eight years.
Council announced on September 4 that it was currently drafting plans to find suitable tenants for the heritage-listed substation which has been dormant since being decommissioned in 1993.
Originally built in 1883 as a public urinal for men, the building was redesigned in 1904 to accommodate a substation before women’s toilets were also installed at the site in the 1930s. In recent years the substation has played host to art installations and pop-up events including Camp Stonewall by Annie Kennedy, Rekindling Venus by Lynette Wallworth and the Cycle-in Cinema.
City of Sydney’s Executive Manager of Culture, Rachel Healy, said the unused substation provided a fantastic opportunity to be reactivated in a similar fashion as to what has occurred over the past 12 months at a number of Council-owned buildings on Oxford Street.
“Here is a great opportunity for artists, chefs or retailers to join the creative buzz on Oxford Street in one of the area’s landmark buildings,” Healy said.
“This could involve putting an art gallery or work space in the underground level, while having a café or shop on street level to attract passers-by.”
Stephan Gyory, owner of the Recordstore on nearby Crown Street and a candidate at the upcoming elections for the Living Sydney party headed by local businesswoman Angela Vithoulkas, told SX that while the idea had merit it simply seemed a rehash of previous promises which were never followed through.
“It’s just such a shame that it has taken eight years for anything to be done, especially considering that the tender for the use of this space has been on the agenda for that long,” Gyory said.
An email message sent by a City of Sydney property strategist in mid-January 2008, and cited by SX this week, seems to confirm the allegations.
“Owing to the extension of time requested for submission of tenders on Stage 1 the EOI (Expression of Interest) for Taylor Square was pushed to Jan 08 to enable presentation of both outcomes at the one council meeting,” the email reads.
“Interest in the proposal remains high.”
Gyory told SX that Council’s motives for making the announcement only a few days prior to an election warranted questioning.
“It just seems like an endless cycle of failure and re-organisation.
“The timing must also be questioned – an announcement a few days prior to the election – call me cynical but it seems too coincidental,” he said.
“It is a good idea – it’s just that it was a good idea four and eight years ago now.”
Image: Artist's impression from 2008 of the Taylor Square substation site (Supplied)