TRANSFORMING Market Square in the Hunter Street mall into a civic hub is "the heart" of the concept masterplan being drafted by landowners UrbanGrowth NSW and GPT to revitalise the shopping strip.
Addressing close to 200 business delegates at a lunch hosted yesterday by the Urban Development Institute of Australia, UrbanGrowth NSW Development director Julie Rich also said "energising" inner-city laneways was a priority.
Ms Rich said UrbanGrowth and GPT, who respectively own two-thirds and one-third of the land running from the former David Jones building to Newcomen Street, were finalising their concept master plan for their $400 million development of the mall area, which she described as a "flagship" project.
The plan, which will be lodged in the first quarter of 2014, will have more residential than retail space, with about 400 apartments, a retail capacity of between 15,000 and 25,000 square metres and 5000 square metres of commercial space.
Ms Rich said that laneways would be important, so too enhancing the view corridors to Christ Church Cathedral, with Market Square a focus.
Showing an image from 1891 of the site at the intersection of Market and Hunter streets, opposite the overhead walkway leading to The Brewery, she noted it was a "shock" to see what it looked like today.
"It is a much poorer thing but what's inspiring here is that we have the chance to recreate that market, or civic place again - we want this part of the site to be the heart," she said.
Meanwhile, giving an overview of the University of Newcastle's $95 million New Space campus earmarked in Hunter Street, the university's chief operating officer Nat McGregor said the principal design consultants for the project would be appointed next week.
Newcastle firms GHD and EJE Architecture are part of two consortiums in the running for the project, which is scheduled to be ready for the 2017 academic year.