“We need a live CBD,” Gibson said. “You can still fire a gun on Miller Street after dark without hitting anyone.
“When residents live in the heart of the CBD, the cafes have regulars, it means better bars, better restaurants, better shops.
“I identify as a YIMBY in this case.”
The proposal plunges the 14-storey MLC building – which was northern Sydney’s first high-rise office building when it was completed in 1957 – into a global debate about converting empty and unused office buildings into housing post-pandemic.
A scoping report for the proposal prepared by Investa for the Ministry of Planning said it would adaptively reuse and preserve the historic significance of the MLC building, increase housing supply and diversity, take advantage of proximity to public transport and “activate” the MLC building promotes the core of the city.
“The proposal will contribute to a stronger and more vibrant North Sydney central business district by providing rental housing and activated ground floor uses within walking distance of public transport and high-quality outdoor spaces,” the report said.
The previous Coalition state government introduced changes to the Housing State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) in 2021 to allow rental housing to be built in commercial centers.
Investa argued that “build-to-rent”, where a developer builds a block of flats and then holds and manages it, was the most suitable option for the site.
“With approximately 600,000 square meters of commercial space becoming available in the North Sydney CBD over the next three years, the MLC building in its current condition is not considered a viable proposition in the commercial rental market,” the report said.
Investa first unveiled plans to redevelop the site in 2020, sparking an outcry from architects and heritage conservationists who said the listed building should be preserved.
The Land and Environment Court last year overturned a ministerial decision to add the block to the state heritage register due to an “administrative error”. This prompted the developer to submit a second bid to gain approval for the $500 million office tower. But the court rejected the plan in May.
The council has urged New South Wales Environment and Heritage Minister Penny Sharpe to re-list the building on the state heritage register. Baker was “very confident that the decision is imminent.”