Last night, Councillors voted to approve a place in the heart of our city for Junya Ishigami's Cloud Arch. This is the speech I addressed to Council in support for the project.
Through you Lord Mayor.
Councillors, this is an icon of a new age; a sign on the Sydney skyline of what is happening at street level.
The 20th century carved up our cities for cars, in the 21st century we're doing the work of rehabilitating the city, for people. Cloud Arch is the symbol, the triumphal arch of this shift, towards a pedestrianised, people-first public domain.
Let's talk about the costs. As you know Councillors, the light rail is a $2.1b project. The City of Sydney is contributing $220m to provide a world-class public domain - not because we have to - but because it's our only assurance that we're going to get high quality paving, seating, tree canopies, drainage, tram stops and YES, public art.
This investment of $11.3million is a fraction - about 5% of our $220m investment - and a minuscule amount of the cost of light rail. This NSW Govt is very happy to spend $38million on an over-engineered bridge to nowhere, the Tibby Cotter Bridge in Moore Park, and in Sept 2015 the NSW Auditor General identified $25m in waste on that project. We could pay for Cloud Arch twice over with just the waste on that project. Or there's the story in the Herald today, confirming that it's going to cost $1.5billion to move the Powerhouse Museum so they can give developers access to that valuable public land in Ultimo.
Yes, this is more than we expected. You know why - the project is wider, there is more steel being used, and the cost of steel has almost doubled. This is a design development process in the crowded centre of our city, and it throws up all kinds of complications, which is what the light rail team are experiencing right now too.
But let's talk about comparable public art projects, in other cities, and in our city: down the road at Barangaroo, they're spending $40m on public art because they know public art is how you define a place, how you draw in crowds, how you help build landmarks and embed a place in the story of a city. It is part of building the character, the narrative of a place. In Chicago, their Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor cost almost $40m and has become a huge tourist draw card, an image of the city. Down at Darling Harbour, the redevelopment includes a 100m long work by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, which if you're concerned about economic development, about job creation - well, tourism is one of the top five industries in NSW - and it's projects like this one, ambitious, bold, visionary, future-focused - these are the places that people extend their stay for. This will be a draw card and a gift to the retailers, the restauranteurs, the cafe owners of the southern CBD.
This will be an icon on our skyline and investment that will pay off many times over, contributing to the social, cultural and economic health of our city.
Thank you Lord Mayor.