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Friday, April 23, 2021

Councillors consider next step for Stairway to Heaven

City of Newcastle councillors will consider progressing the Stairway to Heaven concept to the next step following independent advice that the project would be feasible.

The Stairway to Heaven proposal first emerged in 2006 as a vision to link Christ Church Cathedral to Newcastle Harbour with a new public space, which protected the view of the city’s iconic church.

City of Newcastle revived the concept in December 2020 following advice that the 60-year-old car park on King Street, which currently obstructs views of the Cathedral from the Harbour, would need to be demolished, with council resolving to undertake a preliminary feasibility study.

Director of governance David Clarke said the early advice indicated the concept would be feasible if it was delivered in conjunction with Iris Capital’s East End Development.

“After receiving the green light from our councillors in December to undertake an independent feasibility study and hold early high-level discussions with developer Iris Capital and key stakeholders, we now know the Stairway to Heaven, including 380 public parking spots and community facilities, can work,” he explained.

“The imminent demolition of the former King Street parking station and pending plans for the remaining stages of Iris Capital’s East End development provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an incredible view of our iconic Cathedral and to create a new and similarly iconic, open space in the heart of the city.

“The first step has been to simply determine, ‘is this possible?’.

“Now that we know the answer is yes, we’re looking to the next step, which would include detailed discussions with Iris Capital on the requirements to deliver the concept and further engagement with our community and stakeholders.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the initial feasibility analysis was promising given the concept continued to be strongly supported by key stakeholders.

“Delivering additional public space which preserves local heritage and the iconic view of Christ Church Cathedral from the Harbour while retaining 380 public car parking spaces from the King Street complex would make for a resoundingly positive outcome for the city,” she added.

“After successfully protecting the long-held heritage planning controls in collaboration with Urban Growth to deliver the much-needed renewal of the Hunter Street Mall prescient, this project is a priority.

“We’re confident that this visionary public domain opportunity would truly benefit our community for future generations.”

Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance spokesperson Brian Ladd sees potential in creating a new pedestrian link between Newcastle’s existing Market Street and King Street, visually leading to the landmark Christ Church Cathedral on the ridge of The Hill.

“Any plan to extend Market Street should ensure that nearby existing heritage buildings, the historic character of the area and major public vistas of the Christ Church Cathedral, will be protected and enhanced,” he said.

Iris Capital CEO Sam Arnaout said while there was still much to progress to make this vision feasible, the company remained committed and willing to work with City of Newcastle to make the stairway become a reality.

“Iris Capital acknowledges that the stairway connection to the Cathedral is a once only landmark opportunity to deliver a special piece of public infrastructure to Newcastle that is currently missing which will endure as part of the City forever,” he stated.

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