Square taking shape

Building a city: "It's a historic moment for Parramatta and western Sydney," lord mayor Andrew Wilson (left) said. He's pictured with Lang Walker and David Borger.
Building a city: "It's a historic moment for Parramatta and western Sydney," lord mayor Andrew Wilson (left) said. He's pictured with Lang Walker and David Borger.

Tuesday marked an earth-breaking moment for Parramatta that was 22 years in the making.

Walker Corporation, Parramatta Council and Property NSW broke ground to start construction of the $2.4 billion Parramatta Square.

Walker Corporation executive chairman Lang Walker didn’t hold back in describing what it meant to him.

Grand vision: Parramatta's CBD will transform from a blocked-off construction site to a bustling city precinct by 2021, a vision first proposed in 1995.

Grand vision: Parramatta's CBD will transform from a blocked-off construction site to a bustling city precinct by 2021, a vision first proposed in 1995.

“S*%$ is happening here,” was his catchcry.

Four towers will total 250,000 square metres of A grade office space, retail, restaurants, bars, cafes and open space. Up to 25,000 workers will be based there.

Tower 4 will be the first of the towers to start construction. The 40-storey building will be home to 4000 government employees from the planning, finance and industry departments from 2019.

Sydney Business Chamber western Sydney director David Borger believes it will become Parramatta’s answer to the Rockefeller Centre in New York.

“When I was elected on Parramatta Council in 1995, the first item on my first meeting agenda was this project,” he recalled. “It could become the new Town Hall steps of western Sydney.”

Lord mayor Andrew Wilson added: “Parramatta Square is the largest urban renewal project in the country. It’s going to be an icon for Sydney. Everyone is now looking at us with an even hand as the centre of Sydney.”

Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW chief executive Steve Mann welcomed the influx of workers but fears they will still face long commutes unless there’s more affordable housing closeby.

“If any of the 4000 government workers want to relocate to Parramatta and buy a new apartment near their office, they will face higher house prices due to the NSW Government and Parramatta Council’s proposals to increase tax on new homes,” he said. “They are proposing $115,000 in new state and local government taxes in Parramatta. The ‘30-minute city’ becomes harder to achieve.”

Later this month, councillors will consider a proposed change to 8 Parramatta Square’s property development agreement, which would provide an option for Walker Corporation to change its use from residential to commercial.