What happened at Spit Junction Master Plan public meeting Nov 25

IMG_4209The mayor explained that the session was not a decision making meeting. It was designed to provide a briefing to the public to allow questions and comments and to provide further background information for those considering making a submission. A key constraint was that the development was to be cost neutral.

It was clear from the Mayor’s presentation that the focus of the present Council is on the redevelopment of the Council landholding which covers the Council building itself, the car parks, the Library and Library Walk.

Craig Covich, the acting Director Environment and Planning, overviewed the original Master Plan which provided three options for the Council landholding. All options involved demolition of the existing Council building and putting in its place a building with high public usage (Art Gallery, Library, Council one stop shop). All involved significant residential development with outlooks over Alan Border Oval and various reconfigurations of the existing public space and village Green.

Craig then described another option (Option 4) that had been put forward by Mosman resident Grham Levido (the former head of the School of Architecture and Building at UNSW). The thinking behind this option was that serviceable existing buildings should not be demolished, that implementation should be staged so as to cause minimum loss of amenity to the community and that additional parking should be provided. In essence this option leaves the Council building, Art Gallery and Library, puts parking under the Village Green and the existing car parks and has modest residential development in the area of the existing car park. It also has a Myahgah Mews style lane way running between the back of the Military Rd shops and the proposed residential development overlooking Alan Border oval.

Option 4 was passed on to the SJMP consultants who modified it to be more in line with their thinking to produce Option 5. This option split the Council Building to open up a connection between Myahgah Mews and the new lane way between the Military Rd shops and the new residential development, and proposes that what is left of the Council Building be used for public access facilities such as the Library and Art Gallery and Council One stop Shop to ensure the area has a high density of public facilities and thus generates a lot of ‘footfall’..

When the meeting was opened up for questions and comments from the floor, initially the focus was on options 4 and 5. As one speaker pointed out, to a certain extent, the development of the Council holding and the development of a master plan itself were two distinct tasks of a very different nature. Council can control exactly how its site is developed, but can, via the master plan, only set limits, provide incentives and establish guidelines as to how Spit Junction is developed as it is in (multiple) private ownership.

Later speakers pointed out that the sensible way to proceed would be to develop the master plan first, and then consider how the Council holdings should be developed in conformity with that plan. A good master plan should be such that as each site is developed ( and there should be incentives for site consolidation), one more building block is added to a whole that is much greater than the sum of the parts.

The view was expressed that the Mosman community needed to grapple with some fundamental questions before it would be ready to sign-off on a master plan. For example
• Do we want Mosman’s heritage shopping strip to be one of Sydney’s premier high end shopping destinations or would we prefer it to cater only for local residents?
• If the former how much parking do we need to provide for out-of-Mosman visitors?
• If the latter do we need more local residents and hence more local dwellings to boost commercial viability of Mosman’s retail sector?
• Are we happy to travel out of Mosman to get access to a state of the art supermarket in return for Mosman retaining its village character?
• Do we want to provide more variety in the size and type of dwellings available in Mosman to meet the needs of people who for example don’t want to have a garden or even very much space, but do want to live where they can walk to shops, cafes restaurants and sports facilities, and have good access to public transport?
• Do we need to provide parking for residents who live in such locations?
• Are we aware of other locations through which a major traffic artery runs that have been well planned and are attractive?
• What public facilities do we want to have in Mosman – how big should the Library be and what type of facilities should it provide? Same questions re the Art gallery and Council one stop shop?
• What office space does Council need and where might it be located if not where it currently is?
• How could the master plan be crafted so that we don’t cut-off options for future transport infrastructure and Spit Junctions ‘works’ whatever transport infrastructure we get.
• How can the master plan be crafted so that it works as technology changes over the next 25 years change how we work, shop, play and get around

An architect at the meeting emphasised how important a good brief was – and this applied to the master plan itself but even more so to the development of the Council holdings. In his view the process should be:
• Define what public domain spaces, facilities and parking you want
• This will determine how many dwellings you are going to need to pay for it via developer contributions
• Work out how best to fit the dwellings into the plan with minimum loss of amenity

He pointed out that one or two high rise buildings may result in less apparent bulk than a lot more 5 storey developments to achieve the same dwelling count.
Clearly there is a trade-off. More parking and public facilities entails more dwellings and the community needs to be comfortable that the balance is right.
Cr Sherlock suggested a design competition for the Council land holdings, provided the community was able to come up with a good brief.

One participant imagined a truly breathtaking development at Spit Junction (a high ‘wow’ factor as he put it) – one that would entice passing motorists to stop off in Mosman and enjoy the extensive pedestrian plazas, lane ways cafés, heritage shopping strip, library and art gallery before continuing on their journey. A large underground car park easily accessible for both Northbound and South and traffic along the A8 would need to be part of the package.

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