HCCDC led the Revitalising Newcastle program, a NSW Government initiative focused on activating the city to attract people, jobs and tourism.
Through the program, government invested over $650 million in transforming Newcastle's city centre by strengthening connections between the city and waterfront, creating job opportunities, providing new housing, and delivering attractive public spaces connected to better transport.
Key objectives of the Revitalising Newcastle program were to:
- bring people back to the city centre;
- connect the city to its waterfront;
- help grow new jobs in the city centre;
- create great places linked to new transport;
- create economically sustainable public domain and community assets; and
- preserve and enhance heritage and culture.
The program has delivered:
- revitalised land to provide education and affordable housing opportunities, mixed use development, job opportunities, tourist attractions and public open space in the city centre
- Newcastle Interchange, a new multi-modal transport interchange at Wickham in the city’s west
- wire-free light rail between Newcastle Interchange and Newcastle Beach to reinvigorate the city centre
- road, intersection and footpath upgrades to support traffic flow and road safety in the changing city
- a new integrated public transport provider, Newcastle Transport to deliver better transport services and improved customer experiences.
Revitalising Newcastle projects
The former Newcastle Railway Station is an important state heritage listed building, and a significant component of the Revitalising Newcastle program.
Following extensive community engagement, HCCDC undertook significant repairs, restoration, platform infill works, and created a new landscaped piazza to provide a new lease of life to the east end precinct.
The Station's temporary activation commenced in 2018 to enable 'meanwhile' use of the site while it's long-term use is being determined - and since then, the multipurpose space has grown into a popular community hub with a variety of local retail offerings, gallery spaces and a range of pop-up events including markets, festivals, family days, and group fitness classes.
The former Civic Railway Station precinct has been transformed into a vibrant public space.
We delivered renovations to the station office building (now a Visitor Information Centre), greater pedestrian access between the city and the waterfront, and paved and green parkland spaces.
Museum Park (as it is now named), is a new pedestrian hub for people to access local businesses, the University of Newcastle, Honeysuckle and Newcastle Museum - all a few meters from the Civic light rail stop.
Market Street Lawn connects with The Station in the heart of Newcastle, and is adjacent to the Queens Wharf harbour.
This attractive community space on the repurposed former heavy rail corridor provides direct access between the CBD and waterfront, with close proximity to public transport including bus, ferry and light rail stops.
The public domain has been fully landscaped by HCCDC to include open green lawns, shady trees, seating and an illuminated play-friendly water feature in front of the historic Signal Box building in the heart of the lawn.
The lawn has been made possible by removing the overhead pedestrian bridges, heavy rail infrastructure and barriers that previously divided the city from the waterfront.
Located in the heart of Market Street Lawn, the award-winning Signal Box building is an important piece of Newcastle's heritage fabric.
In its previous life dating back to 1936, the building played a key role in directing trains in and out of the former Newcastle Railway Station - and now, following the completion of heritage restoration works in 2019, the Signal Box has been transformed into a unique inner-city dining destination.
The stunning restoration of this historic building has been honoured by the Australian Institute of Architects with the prestigious 2019 Newcastle Award for Heritage, and the 2020 NSW Greenway Award for Heritage in recognition of it's adaptive reuse.
The former Newcastle Co-Operative Store (‘The Store’) site is being transformed with new transport infrastructure, jobs, homes and public spaces.
The $200-million redevelopment by the Doma Group is taking design and opportunity to new levels in the city’s emerging West End, with a new transport interchange improving connectivity between heavy rail, light rail and buses - as well as high-quality public domain, pedestrian access and roads.
Newcastle Light Rail is a key part of the Revitalising Newcastle program delivered by Transport for NSW (TfNSW).
The high capacity light rail system provides regular services through the city centre with six stops connecting the Newcastle Interchange and Newcastle Beach.
Light Rail services operated by Newcastle Transport commenced in February 2019 providing a frequent and reliable travel option into the city centre, connecting key activity precincts, reinvigorating Hunter and Scott Streets, and creating great urban renewal opportunities.
HCCDC worked closely with Evolve Housing, who were appointed to deliver and manage the development of 30 new affordable rental units in the heart of Newcastle.
Affordable Housing is for people on low to moderate incomes such as retail workers, child care and youth workers – the people in our community who provide essential functions and services we all rely on. The scheme helps these workers achieve their housing goals, be it home ownership or ongoing private rental.
City of Newcastle has been awarded the tender to transform the Rail Bridge Row site on Newcastle's Hunter Street.
Council's proposal for the site includes affordable housing units, retail and commercial space, as well as new public domain and a shared cycleway.
This development will help to attract more people into the city centre and supports our commitment to the ongoing revitalisation of Newcastle, as well as City of Newcastle’s Development Control Plan and the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012.
A collaborative program
Revitalising Newcastle is a multi-agency government initiative coordinated by HCCDC.
We worked in partnership with Transport for NSW and key stakeholders including the community, local residents, industry and local businesses to shape the revitalisation of the city centre.
In 2014 the heavy rail line into Newcastle was truncated at Wickham to revitalise Newcastle city centre through transformation of the former heavy rail corridor. The vision was to connect the city to the waterfront, provide new open public space, new shops and residential opportunities.
Community engagement undertaken to identify the community's aspirations for Newcastle provided invaluable feedback that shaped the plans for the revitalisation of the city centre.
In 2018, the former heavy rail corridor sites were formally rezoned from infrastructure zoning to a combination of public open space, tourism and mixed use zoning to allow for new land uses. Inline with what the community has told us, more than three-quarters of the surplus corridor is dedicated to delivering community benefit including education, public spaces, affordable housing and tourism.
The University of Newcastle is significantly increasing its inner-city presence and becoming a major catalyst in the revitalisation of Newcastle by maximising two hectares of land (part of which is in the land associated with the rezoning) close to its NUspace campus.
The new planning controls also allow retail, commercial and residential opportunities that revitalise Hunter and Scott streets while respecting Newcastle’s heritage and character, with new pedestrian and active transport connections enhancing accessibility in the city centre.
The community is at the heart of decision making.
Input and insight generated by thousands of community members has helped inform city-shaping decisions that provide a strong foundation for Newcastle’s sustainable urban transformation.
Design Newcastle in 2014 was the first phase of community engagement focused on the urban transformation of Newcastle city centre.
We sought to understand the aspirations for the revitalisation of the city and more than 950 stakeholders participated, including individuals, community groups, local council and representatives of NSW Government agencies. From this, a vision and objectives for Revitalising Newcastle were developed.
In 2015 more than 11,000 people shared their ideas about the transformation of the city centre in the largest and deepest community engagement program ever seen in the Newcastle and Hunter region.
The findings showed that Newcastle people are proud of their city and want to see it reinvigorated. They strongly supported the program objectives including bringing people back to the city, growing new jobs and connecting the city to its waterfront.
This feedback directly informed the planning of a revitalised city centre that includes:
- new open spaces and improved public domain with more pedestrian and vehicle connections
- increased links between the city and the waterfront
- the revitalisation of Hunter Street
- a commitment to respecting Newcastle’s heritage and character.
The 2016 Ideas Festival also stimulated ideas that support viable and sustainable outcomes for the potential future uses of the former Newcastle and Civic Railway Stations and surrounding precincts.
More than 600 people attended the drop-in sessions generating over 1,500 ideas for Newcastle Station alone.
The main themes included active recreation, art, markets, tourism, culture and history. These ideas were refined through community and stakeholder workshops and those with the most potential and community support were identified.
The Revitalising Newcastle program reported to a multi-agency steering committee, established by the NSW Cabinet Standing Committee on Infrastructure and including of representatives from:
- Transport for NSW
- Roads and Maritime Services
- Department of Planning and Environment
- NSW Treasury
- Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation
- Infrastructure NSW (observer status).
The program hosted several committees and steering groups, most significantly the Newcastle Urban Transformation Steering Group (NUTSG). This included representation from Newcastle City Council (Lord Mayor, Interim CEO and Director of Planning), the CEO of the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation and program leaders. The multi-agency steering committee and NUTSG met as required and bi-monthly as a minimum.
The program was funded by the NSW Government and approved through the Cabinet Expenditure Review Committee.
The Revitalising Newcastle program concluded with the successful commencement of light rail services. HCCDC continues to deliver on NSW Government’s $650+ million commitment to the urban transformation of the surplus rail corridor.
HCCDC continues monitor the project’s progress towards achieving the project objectives.