‘Barangaroo of the West’: Parramatta wants you to embrace its river after centuries of neglect

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After turning its back for 200 years, Parramatta finally wants to embrace its river as part of a plan to revitalise Sydney’s second CBD.

Western Sydney leaders on Friday outlined five key priorities for Parramatta, including the transformation of the Parramatta River and its connection to the CBD.

An artist’s impression of a revitalised Parramatta River, which western Sydney leaders believe can be a destination like New York’s Central Park.Credit: Arterra Interactive

Parramatta Lord Mayor Sameer Pandey said the river was the green heart of the city.

“New York has Central Park, and Sydney’s central river city deserves a world-class river parkland,” he said.

Pandey said Parramatta could become an international destination with the right investment.

“The ingredients are all there – from Parramatta Park, the Riverside Theatres redevelopment, Powerhouse Parramatta to The Escarpment Boardwalk and Sydney Olympic Park,” he said. “It’s creating places for the community to connect with arts, culture, nature and each other.”

Speaking at the Greater Parramatta and Olympic Park conference, Business Western Sydney executive director David Borger said the Parramatta River had been neglected for two centuries.

“We turned it into a concrete bath,” he said. “The rewilding idea is about trying to bring back greenery and native vegetation to provide more shade – western Sydney gets bloody hot in summer.”

Borger said the river would also serve as the entry point to the under-construction Parramatta Powerhouse.

“The Powerhouse museum really is the first building that’s going to be designed from scratch to face the river,” he said.

City of Parramatta chief executive Gail Connolly said Parramatta River should be a destination where visitors “can walk, swim and connect: the Barangaroo of the West”.

“We want a global city with a green heart, and that means realising the potential of the Parramatta River corridor, which is within a 15-minute walk or cycle of about 75 per cent of our population growth,” she said.

Civic and business leaders also want more investment in transport, including extra stations on the Sydney Metro West line and the next stage of the Parramatta light rail line; the restoration of the Roxy Theatre; and an Indigenous Centre of Excellence.

“Parra’s been an engine for jobs and investment,” Borger said. “We love the dance of the cranes, but the missing bit really is cultural opportunities: venues small and large.”

Borger also said Parramatta should become more like Surry Hills: “We need to develop different characters within a city, different precincts, rather than just thinking of it as one bland CBD.”

Lendlease executive director Jason de Sousa said the Parramatta CBD lacked green space and venues to support an arts and culture scene.

“Outside of the new working week – Tuesdays to Thursdays – the office precinct is devoid of human activity,” he said.

Speakers also said the state government continued to spend more money on Sydney CBD than Parramatta.

“Why shouldn’t we have what Barangaroo has?” Connolly said. “Let’s just start demanding what the city folk get.”

However, fewer people working from offices posed a problem for plans to overhaul Sydney’s second CBD, Connolly said. “You can’t ask the government for infrastructure if there’s no one coming in to use it.”

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