By Joseph Brookes
The NSW Government’s proposed Western Sydney Startup Hub has been given planning approval, paving the way for heritage buildings in North Parramatta to be “sensitively restored” for entrepreneurs.
Some 1,500 square metres of affordable co-working space is to be built at the new hub, as well as a café and a shared event space to tap into the rapidly growing Western Sydney population and business community.
The planned tech hub is situated on the historic Parramatta North Heritage Core site on the banks of the Parramatta river. Local residents and conservation groups have objected to the use of the buildings, particularly the nationally-heritage listed Female Factory.
In early March, the Sydney Central City Planning Panel approved development of the site in a split four to one decision. The panel noted community objections including the hub limiting public use of the historic site and funding for the project being diverted from planned repairs to the heritage site.
But it said it was satisfied the proposed works are “sympathetic to their location” on the historic site and acknowledged the council had secured approval from Heritage NSW for the proposal.
On Tuesday the minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres announced the approval, saying it gave the green light to the project which has been in the works in various forms since 2018.
“We can activate part of this prized heritage precinct in a way that will not only respect and conserve its past but ensure its viable future as the heart of startup business and innovation in Western Sydney.”
The state plans to open the Western Sydney Startup Hub by the end of the year but is yet to announce an operator for the facility, having set a timeline to do so by next month.
The Western Sydney facility follows the establishment of a Sydney Startup Hub in the CBD in 2018. The York Street facility is now home to 2,500 residents from startups and accelerators like Fisburners, The Studio and Stone & Chalk, as well as corporate scaleup programs from the likes of Microsoft, Optus and Westpac.
Mr Ayers said a similar facility was needed for Western Sydney.
“We are giving them the space to turn their ideas into commercial realities that will lead to more investment and jobs in the region.
“We will employ best-practice conservation methods to sensitively reinstate the national heritage-listed buildings for their future use.”
Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the hub will be a transformational project for Parramatta.
“We cannot wait to start welcoming startups, scaleups, businesses and the local community to the Western Sydney Startup Hub by the end of this year. It will be a transformative place and puts the Central City on the startup and innovation ecosystem map.”
This article originally appeared at InnovationAus.
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