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Stanley Street café Bill & Toni’s

A complete upgrade of East Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’ on Stanley Street is now in sight, after the City of Sydney Council agreed on a unified concept plan.

Of the three proposals put forward, Council endorsed the second option that envisaged footpaths paved and widened, and trees planted in parking lanes. The road surface along the restaurant and cafe strip will also be paved to “further unify the space”, according to the plans.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the next stage involves the creation of detailed designs and further consultation, with construction due to begin later this year.

Cr Moore said the upgrade would also include burying overhead cables underground, installing special lighting and “reducing clutter”.

Three proposals were presented to the community in February, before they went on public exhibition.

Twenty nine submissions were received during the public exhibition period. Community feedback indicated a preference by local businesses for option one, which left the road paved in asphalt.

However, submissions from residents – including the East Sydney Neighbourhood Association – favoured the pedestrian-friendly option three, that outlined the removal of kerbs from the paved footpath and road area. This was deemed unfeasible by Council because of issues surrounding pedestrian safety and drainage.

Owner of iconic Stanley Street café Bill & Toni’s, Domenic Zucano, told The City News that he had been in favour of option one, as it was the least disruptive to business.

“It would be a disaster to further restrict traffic through the area,” he said. “We still need cars to come through here if we are to survive.”

A lack of parking was a real disincentive to people visiting the area, Mr Zucano said. “If the Council is going to spend $5 million on the upgrade it should do so willingly without trying to recoup that money through parking meters,” he said.

While praising the nearby Macleay Street upgrade in Kings Cross as “exceptional”, he said he was concerned that East Sydney businesses which were “slowly improving” after the negative impact of the Cross City Tunnel opening would struggle again.

“Everywhere else this has been done, like Bondi, Oxford Street and Glebe, businesses have suffered. You’ll see how many will go broke. Even though you’re beautifying the footpath, it’s ruining business,” he said.

While upgrade work will focus on the Stanley Street “hub” between Riley and Crown Streets, broader initiatives are planned throughout the precinct. Other changes will mean improvements to the street closure in Yurong Lane at Yurong Street, and in Riley Street near William Street.

Cr Moore said council will also be investigating lighting in local lanes, installing angle parking in Palmer Street and providing cycling infrastructure.

– Linda Daniele

*This article was first published in City Hub, May 19, 2008 and City News, May 24, 2008.