Reimagining Urban Life #1: Transforming Australia’s Gateway Precinct – Circular Quay

Simon Healy

Circular Quay is one of the country’s most important precincts.  It has significant importance in Australia’s cultural heritage, spanning from the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation through to European settlement. Today it is the world-famous gateway to the harbour city and a major transport interchange.

Home to iconic attractions such as the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks, it is also the stage for Sydney’s premier cultural events such as New Year’s Eve, Australia Day and the Vivid Festival. Unsurprisingly, it is one of Australia’s most visited destinations and a major contributor to Australia’s $126 billion tourism industry. There are currently about 50 million visitors to Circular Quay every year.[1]

Excitingly, Circular Quay is currently the focus of both Government and private developers who have come together in a unique partnership to jointly drive the much-needed renewal of the precinct. This new wave of development promises to deliver a vibrant, accessible and sustainable waterfront destination, as well as an improved customer and visitor experience, that fulfils the potential of this globally-recognised location. 

Mirvac was one of the first to spark the reinvigoration of the Circular Quay area with the development of EY Centre, 200 George Street. In the next five years, there is extraordinary private sector development set to take place with AMP’s Quay Quarter development, Lend Lease’s Circular Quay Tower, the Gold Field House redevelopment and Mirvac’s 55 Pitt Street all in the pipeline. With our wealth of experience in developing landmark mixed-use projects including South Eveleigh, Green Square and Walsh Bay, Mirvac was ideally placed to contribute to boldly reimagining this iconic location.

Working with City of Sydney Council, service providers, planners, other developers and the public, Mirvac has ensured the creation of a new urban quarter at EY Centre that will thrive well into the future.

The diverse display of heritage items and public art at the ground plane is designed to celebrate the heritage and inspire pride of place among its community, while extensive activation of the ground plane and retail amenity, encourages the use of the space beyond working hours.

A pocket park at the base of the building provides the perfect venue for people to work, relax and socialise, doubling as an urban laneway, eat street and an amphitheatre that can be transformed as required. Four new food and beverage outlets at street level, a Commonwealth Bank branch are fully operational adding value for the surrounding community. The contribution of art and culture at EY Centre develops a unique sense of place, reflecting the historical past and embracing the future of the site. This includes a significant, 35-metre long public art installation suspended above Underwood Street behind EY Centre activating the hidden laneway behind the building, and creating a public space for the whole community to enjoy.

Alongside the private sector investment, Transport for NSW has begun engagement with the market on the renewal of the precinct, asking for private sector input and contributions to the vision for the site and committing to spend $200 million in the coming years on upgrades to the ferry wharves.

It’s incredibly rare to have this amount of focus on a single area. The acknowledgment that Sydney’s best-known precinct ‘lacks kerb appeal’, as beautifully articulated by Urbis Managing Partner Tim Blythe recently[2], has touched a nerve with the private and public-sector heavyweights. The shared approach to planning that is the result has not only been the catalyst for change, it will also no doubt deliver exceptional outcomes for the city.

With the introduction of world class architecture, upgrades to transport including the new light rail terminus on Alfred Street, and a raft of new shops, cafes and bars nestled within the new activated laneway network, the new look Circular Quay will re-energise the Sydney CBD and have a huge impact of the city as a whole.

Transforming Australia’s Gateway Precinct – Circular Quay’ is the first in a series of blogs which will explore how Mirvac’s commitment to innovation and truly reimagining urban life is helping shape major new urban precincts and drive large scale urban renewal projects across Australia.


[1] https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/projects/current-projects/circular-quay-precinct-renewal 

[2] https://www.propertycouncil.com.au/Web/Content/News/National/2018/Sydney-s-front-door-gets-a-facelift.aspx