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Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation announced on Friday that it would take the final parcel of Newcastle's former heavy rail corridor, adjacent to the Crown Street light rail stop on Hunter Street, to the market in a move it says will bring jobs and residents to the city.
The 4125-square metre site has been named Rail Bridge Row in recognition of the AA Company Bridge that once crossed the site to take coal to the harbour.
Newcastle council approved rezoning of the city's former heavy rail corridor in December 2017 amid strong objections at the time from Greens councillor John Mackenzie, who argued the land could still be used for future transport needs.
Council's decision paved the way for a mix of open space, university buildings and residential and commercial development on the strip of land between Worth Place and Newcastle station after a bitter debate stretching back at least 27 years.
Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation's acting chief executive, Valentina Misevska, said the final parcel of land going to market would present a rare investment opportunity in the Newcastle CBD.
"Rail Bridge Row has an amazing street frontage along Hunter Street. The long and narrow site provides the opportunity to create a high-quality streetscape that, together with residential and commercial outcomes, will help to attract more people into the city centre," Ms Misevska said.
The announcement follows more than a year of CBD businesses struggling through disruptions caused by the city's ongoing revitalisation.
The Newcastle Herald reported in May that significant transport and parking changes had effectively driven some longstanding businesses out of the CBD as efforts to bring people into the city continued.
Hugh Sanderson, the owner and manager of NDF Camera House, who moved his business from Hunter Street to Kotara in May after 33 years in the CBD, said at the time that his business was down around 20 percent, which he attributed to disruption in the city.
The camera retailer took a 10 to 15 pecent hit, he said, when the light rail was under construction, but had hoped sales would revive when the project was completed.
"Even though it's finished, it [business] seems worse," Mr Sanderson said at the time.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes acknowledged earlier this year that some businesses had experienced "significant disruption" but believed development offered new opportunities for the city.
"It's a double-edged sword," Cr Nelmes said in May. "If nothing ever happened or no construction was done in the CBD area, then there wouldn't be any future for that CBD area."
This article first appeared on www.newcastleherald.com.au
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