GREG RAY: Hunter Street - my way

HUNTER Street?

If it was up to me, here’s what I’d do.

First, the railway line.

Since the original Newcastle Station was at Honeysuckle (behind the old Palais), and the government only pushed the line through to Watt Street to suit its shipping needs, I’d clip it back again. But no further west than Wickham. Today’s Wickham station, that is, east of Stewart Avenue.

I liked architecture professor Steffen Lehmann’s idea of a grand railway plaza on the harbour corner there.

As for Stewart Avenue, well, it’s either an overpass or an underpass.

East of the heavy rail terminus I’d put some kind of light rail or trolley bus, running every 10 minutes or so, up and back. Even if I had to bolt train wheels on a bus myself to prove how easy it could be.

The rail system east of Wickham I’d landscape, with footpaths and cycleway alongside. You’d be able to cross it anywhere.

I’d tell the Honeysuckle crowd to stop work on their harbourfront Great Wall. Enough is enough. 

I’d make the government give them enough money to keep operating without having to sell everything in sight just to keep paying their own wages.

The post office building would be used for, wait for it, the Post Office. Of course, they’d only need a little bit. The rest of the building would be used for shops and galleries with a tourist flavour. In fact, I think I’d put the city’s main tourist information centre in there. There would be a cafe on the roof.

Nobbys would be open every day. With a nice little posh-ish restaurant and a cheap kiosk. And a cute little B&B, with transport to and from via an electric buggy on a widened pathway.

There would be hawker food markets every weekend next to Nobbys.

The mall?

I wouldn’t let them convert it to residential. Some shoptops and serviced apartments yes, but not just boxy flats. It would be leisure retail, arty cinema, galleries, beach culture celebration, fashion and fun. Put a big translucent roof over it, if you like.

That investment in market infrastructure wouldn’t be wasted. I know a bloke who made a submission to the council to run a different themed market every weekend, all year round. He had them all listed and it was a great plan. The council didn’t even reply to him, but I would.

I thought Jeff McCloy’s idea for a Chinatown was interesting, but not in Newcastle East, please. Wickham I reckon, or over Marketown way.

Newcastle’s convict and later heritage is already undervalued. That’s got to be fixed. Let’s have some more sound and light shows. Like the sinking of the Cawarra in 1866. Maybe up in the Cathedral, where the victims were buried.

And what about a camera obscura, like they have in Edinburgh?

Let’s do something with the old Corporation Baths. What about a penny arcade with original amusement machines? How about a museum of working amusement machines, from early times to pinball and Space Invaders?

Let’s rebuild the Young Mariners’ Pool, but make it so it doesn’t fill with sand this time. That would be truly iconic.

No way would I let them redevelop the old Watt Street hospital site. That’s the beating heart of our history. Maybe I’d open up a hundred metres or so of old convict coalmine up there.

I’d boost Surfest like crazy. No way would I let it fret about nickels and dimes. It ought to be a bonanza for Newcastle.

I’d give owners of buildings and sites the chance to apply for a three-year rate holiday in return for really good development applications.

The nightclubs are a really important part of Newcastle’s life, but I’d encourage the police to keep on their case. Make money, fair enough, but let’s really keep trying to modify the city’s culture and deboganise the place so it’s safer to visit.

What do you reckon? Any chance?


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