AN inner-city campus with 6500 students and staff and just a dozen parking spaces.
That’s the vision that the University of Newcastle has for its Honeysuckle development to be built in the coming years, over stages.
Until quite recently, such a lack of parking would have been considered by many to be planning madness, especially given the numbers of parking spaces that are being lost in the CBD to development, and the reputation that Novocastrians have – deservedly or not – for wanting to cling to their cars at all costs.
But if the NSW government and Newcastle City Council are going to succeed in their plans to bring a new high-rise intensity to the Newcastle CBD, then the motor car is going to have to take a back step when it comes to moving people around the narrow grid of streets that constitute the inner city. There is no practical choice.
And as minimal as the proposed campus parking spaces might be, it is worth remembering the concerns that were raised four years ago over the provision of just five parking spaces at the university’s nearby NeW Space building, designed to cater for as many as 3000 students and staff. Similarly, the new courts complex has just 24 parking spaces, but there has been no real sign since the opening of either that they’ve failed to operate in the way they were intended.
That said, there is no doubt that parking pressures have increased in the suburban areas south and west of the CBD. Further development will only exacerbate this problem, which can be particularly vexing for residents of the streets concerned.
Until the light rail construction is finished, and the CBD is operating in something like a normal manner, it will be impossible to tell how well the streets of a revitalised inner city are likely to function. A huge amount will ride on how Keolis Downer handles the public transport task. Morning and afternoon peaks will, as always, be the main problem, and the car-driving habits of a lifetime can be hard to break.
If many European cities – which have to deal with far more inclement weather than we do – can all but remove the car from their historic centres, then we should be able to head along similar lines. It will not be universally popular, but it will be all but inevitable if the city centre is to become the harbourside jewel it promises to be.