IN proceeding with its application to landscape the Market Street Lawn on the former heavy rail corridor, the state government’s UrbanGrowth NSW agency is putting forward a proposal that virtually nobody is going to argue with.
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After all, if the rail corridor is no longer needed for public transport – and there is a light rail stop right outside the park on Scott Street – what better way to fulfill the promise of a better-connected city than by creating an attractive vista from the Hunter Street mall northto Queens Wharf?

But the question marks over the corridor remain,at least for some. Even if most people have accepted –or even embraced – the prospectof light rail on the road east of Worth Place, theidea of building on the resultant vacant corridor is another decision altogether in many minds, at least until the light rail system has proved itself.

With the corridor still a political hot potato, it does not take a lot of imagination to realise what would happen if the government announced it was cutting a deal with a major developer to build a commercial/residential high rise on a corridor site.

It would be the Laman Street figs all over again. But it is very difficult to argue against education, so it wasprobably no coincidence that the first bricks and mortar project proposed for the corridor involved a planned extension of the University of Newcastle’sCBD presence.

In a similar light, Newcastle Greens councillor Therese Doyle is in no doubt that the state government intends wedging the council with the next cab off the development rank –an affordable housing project on the corridor west of Merewether Street – which is set to beunveiled in the coming weeks. Cr Doyle and others opposed to the loss of the heavy rail corridor say that Newcastle City Council’s co-operation in rezoning itto allow redevelopment is contingent on the government carrying out a comprehensive public transport study.

From the government’s perspective, the answer to that particular question is a forgone conclusion: the light rail route means that the section of the corridor it is considering for development is redundant, so the call for a study is little more than a delaying tactic. In the meantime, the government’sopening gambit of a park, a university building and an affordable housing project is designed to show that there is more to its plans for the corridor than a profit-driven land-grab.

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