Investment NSW and EY recommend to enhance appeal of Sydney CBD

13 May 2022 3 min. read
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Investment NSW and EY have quizzed over 3,000 local residents on their current sentiments towards the Sydney CBD, and drafted a range of recommendations to help lure punters back.

Sydney has long been considered one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world, but a new survey by professional services firm EY in collaboration with Investment NSW has found that a large number of its residents can no longer be bothered heading into the CBD.

The central business district (CBD) is the historical and main commercial centre of Sydney. The 2.8 square kilometre area was responsible for over 9 percent of Australia’s GDP growth prior to the onset of Covid-19.

Attitudes and sentiments toward the Sydney CBD

According to EY’s analysis, two years of international border closures alongside rolling local lock-downs and widespread remote working have had a dual effect, in both enhancing the allure of the city and transforming local areas and high streets into places of greater appeal. This mix in sentiment can be seen in the polarised responses of the 3,000 Sydneysiders surveyed on the subject of returning to the heart of the city.

Although close to seven in ten Harbour City residents stated they have always enjoyed spending time in the CBD and were proud of it as a showcase for Sydney, and agreed that there was always something new on offer, one third said they didn’t feel the need to return in order to find great experiences. Almost 40 percent also stated that the CBD was now less appealing to visit for leisure than it had been prior to the pandemic.

Some of the deterrents for those not wishing to return are longstanding bugbears, pre-dating the pandemic, such as expensive prices and issues around parking, each cited by two thirds of the respondents.

Top CBD associations - Deterrents to CBD visitation

Yet, the study notes that the pandemic has caused people to rethink certain elements of their lives, including how they value and spend their time and money, such that what once might have been a casual irritant could now be a deal-breaker.

When looking at the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the CBD, its fine dining options, great bars and shopping and arts on offer were counterbalanced by the lack of shops for everyday items, poor value for money, the difficulty in getting home at night, and its pace and lack of green spaces.

On the other side of the coin, local areas lacked high-end shops and arts and culture, but were greener and more affordable, relaxing and accessible.

After filtering through the survey responses as to deterrents and what incentives, activities and initiatives might otherwise lure visitors back, the report authors make a host of strategic short- and long-term recommendations they believe can help “flick the switch on a new era for Sydney.”

Experience perceptions by area

Some, such as increased transport options and subsidised travel passes, would be expected, while others were in accordance with desires for a revitalised city.

“The CBD matters not just to our city but to our nation,” said EY’s Built Environment & Resources leader Selina Short, citing its oversized contribution to national GDP. “As the geography of work changes, the CBD must evolve from a place of business into a ‘central experience district’. While there is no one strategy or solution, our report offers a range of ideas and initiatives that can create new and unique experiences and business opportunities.”

Michael Rodrigues, 24-Hour Economy Commissioner at Investment NSW, added: “For the CBD to rebuild, collaboration is critical to success. It is only by working together that we will develop better policy, devise better ways of working across all the key players, and deliver better and more creative initiatives that attract people who may not have considered the CBD pre-pandemic.”