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Transforming Sydney's Iconic Wharf


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The first stage of the Walsh Bay Arts precinct redevelopment is about to begin following the NSW Government awarding the construction contract to Richard Crookes Constructions

The development is estimated to cost in the vicinity of $200 million, with the historical and iconic wharf area set to become an integral arts precinct for Sydney. It will be home to Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Dance Company, Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Australian Theatre for Young People, among others, and it will host the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Philharmonia Choirs. The precinct will also incorporate a large area of retail space and public facilities.

NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin spoke at the announcement of the construction, saying: “Walsh Bay has been put on the map thanks to the work of some of our leading performing arts companies, and it is exciting to be able to enter this next stage in turning our vision for a world-class Arts Precinct into a reality.

“We are hugely excited to be able to house the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Bell Shakespeare at Walsh Bay.”

“We are hugely excited to be able to house the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Bell Shakespeare at Walsh Bay.”

The Walsh Bay area is of State cultural significance. It combines steep rocky terrain, Victorian and Edwardian housing, Victorian bond stores, and the iconic timber wharf. The North Shore ferry began operating from Walsh Bay to Blues Point in the 1840s.

The wharves that are being refurbished were originally constructed in the 1920s, and care has been taken to restore and maintain the industrial character of the precinct while creating the destination art hub of Sydney.

Richard Crookes Construction is renowned for a range of NSW Government projects across the health, education and justice sectors as well as private sector projects. It is also currently constructing 104 high-end apartments, dubbed the “Opera Residences,” over 19 levels within busy Bennelong Point (Opera House) precinct. It is also responsible for the construction of one of Sydney’s largest urban renewal projects, Park Sydney in Erskineville.

In a statement provided to Jobsite, CEO George Bardas said: “The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct will be a major addition to Sydney’s cultural scene and to RCC’s portfolio. Our community and commercial experience, as well as recent delivery in Sydney’s CBD, will ensure the high quality and safe delivery of this redevelopment. We are really pleased to be working with Infrastructure NSW to deliver this project on Sydney’s iconic harbour.”

Meanwhile, Peter Fulton, Senior Project Manager from Richard Crookes Construction, commented the considerations the company need to account for concerning the precinct’s long history: 

“The Walsh Bay finger wharves have historical significance as a port and trading hub during the late Federation period. Built during the early 20th century, the entire Walsh Bay precinct is heritage listed, so its protection and maintenance will be a key consideration throughout construction,” he said.

“The Walsh Bay finger wharves have historical significance as a port and trading hub during the late Federation period."

“RCC has conducted pre-construction consultation with heritage consultants that have previous experience at Walsh Bay, along with early subcontractor engagement to ensure compliance with internal and external management plans. In practice, this means controlling moving and preventing marking, cutting, drilling and damaging the identified heritage elements.”

He continued: “Significant environmental challenges are always present with over-water construction. Common construction environmental impacts like dust, noise and spills have all been thought about and mitigated—with dust and noise monitors and early preventative mitigation like industrial spill kits and spill trays. Workers have also been trained to ensure the successful delivery of the Precinct and the protection of Sydney’s iconic harbour.” 

The development itself will provide jobs for more than 300 workers and will use modern and innovative technologies and construction approaches. The theatre and AV systems being installed are among the best available, considering the area’s future role as a buzzing arts hub.

 Said Fulton: “The future arts and cultural uses of the Precinct call for detailed acoustic considerations to produce high-quality theatre spaces and limit noise interference from other spaces or outside. The wall, floor and high spec glass ensure the Precinct will be technologically and acoustically fit for now and the future.” 

Richard Crookes is also taking advantage of the natural benefits of overwater construction, incorporating the water from the harbour into the development as Fulton explained: “RCC will utilise an efficient seawater cooling system for air conditioning services. Overwater construction will allow us to install this technology under the wharves, rather than a traditional rooftop air-conditioning unit. 

“The key advantages of this system is the reduction of power usage and noise levels."

“The key advantages of this system is the reduction of power usage and noise levels, ensuring that this is a more sustainable development and will help to reduce ongoing impacts on the surrounding commercial and residential tenants.” 

The project is expected to be complete by 2020.

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