Parramatta transforming into a global city

The future of Parramatta is bright. Over $10 billion has been spent in the public and private sectors in the past five years, but there is still work to be done.

7 mins read

The future of Parramatta is bright. Over $10 billion has been spent in the public and private sectors in the past five years, but there is still work to be done.

Governments, business owners and others need to work together to attract more investment to continue Parramatta’s growth and transformation as the Central River City, and more ambitiously as a truly global city.

The City of Parramatta has a bold vision to grow the shape and size of the Parramatta CBD. The Parramatta CBD Planning Proposal will see the boundaries of the Parramatta CBD expanded and the heights of buildings soar to cater for the estimated 46,000 new jobs and 14,000 new dwellings over the next 40 years.

The focus and investment required go beyond buildings alone. Growth is driven by many sectors including technology, education, transport, arts & culture, and more. All the while, maintaining the area’s authenticity and providing open spaces for the community to gather.

Investment in the tech sector

Attracting investment in the technology sector to the City of Parramatta is a key component of the growth plans.

The Western Sydney Startup Hub (WSSH) which is currently under development is an excellent start but more needs to be done to attract tech companies of all shapes and sizes to Parramatta.

The WSSH will be within proximity of Westmead’s burgeoning bio-medical precinct, and a proposed campus of The University of Sydney. 

Located in the Parramatta North Heritage Core, the 1,500 square metre WSSH will provide affordable space and support programs to help Western Sydney startups, scaleups and businesses grow.

The WSSH will complement Parramatta’s existing incubators and co-working spaces, that are attracting startups in the areas of advanced technology, engineering and more.

Uniting universities in Parramatta

A key part of the growth for Parramatta is within the education sector. The City of Parramatta’s education and training sector is currently worth up to $1.6 billion and employs more than 11,500 people. More than 25,000 university students are enrolled across the City’s campuses.

The City of Parramatta is home to five universities including Western Sydney University, University of Sydney, UNSW, University of New England, Swinburne University of Technology and Charles Sturt University.

In 2021, Council launched the ground-breaking EducateAT Parramatta Alliance, uniting universities that have a presence in Parramatta to advocate for, and attract talent to, the centre of global Sydney.

The alliance has one key goal – to help Parramatta become the best city in Australia for students to study and succeed.

The alliance includes Western Sydney University, University of Sydney, UNSW Sydney, University of New England, Swinburne University of Technology, and the Western Sydney Local Health District, who all signed the EducateAT Parramatta Charter at the launch last year.

educateAT alliance

Continued transport investment

Allowing workers and residents to move around the City of Parramatta, and to travel to and from the area is paramount to creating a global city.

Parramatta’s transport infrastructure continues to develop with the Parramatta Light Rail, Metro West, and Ferry wharf upgrades.

The proposed Stage Two of the Parramatta Light Rail (PLR) will connect the Parramatta CBD to Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point and Sydney Olympic Park. It will also connect to Sydney Metro West, the heavy rail in Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park, and ferry services at Rydalmere and Sydney Olympic Park.

The NSW Government has committed $50 million to continue planning and development work for PLR Stage 2 and Transport for NSW is seeking community feedback on the social impact of the project. The City of Parramatta is strongly advocating for this to go ahead.

parramatta light rail

Investment in Arts, culture and the night-time economy

Global cities are known for their thriving arts and culture scenes, and their night-time economies. Parramatta is transforming into a global arts and culture precinct with the new Powerhouse Precinct development and the redevelopment of the Riverside Theatres, as well as a thriving smaller arts & culture scene.

City of Parramatta has named the historic Roxy Theatre and an interconnected cultural precinct linking the Parramatta Powerhouse and Riverside Theatre as its top priority project to restart the City’s economy. The Roxy Theatre is owned by a developer who plans to redevelop the site as a five-level leisure and entertainment venue.

Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres is set to receive a renovation in the tens of millions of dollars. This will be funded through the sale of the Parramatta Riverbank carpark site to the NSW Government for the Museum of Applied Arts & Science (MAAS). The much-loved but aged theatres will be an important part of the revitalised arts and culture precinct in Parramatta.

The City of Parramatta has recently seen a renewed focus on the Night-Time Economy (NTE) in the Parramatta area. The COVID pandemic stalled many of the previous NTE initiatives, but as the impact lessens, the focus is now firmly on encouraging Parramatta residents and visitors to enjoy Parramatta’s nightlife.

The recent Global Cities After Dark Parramatta week-long program of workshops shone a light on the opportunities by bringing many stakeholders together to discuss the possibilities that the NTE can bring.

powerhouse parramatta

Remaining authentic

As Parramatta grows and transforms, one challenge for all its exponents is to remain authentic to the local community.

Parramatta is considered one of the most historically significant places in Australia, for both its indigenous history and European settlement.

Long before European settlement, Indigenous people inhabited the area. Many places and items remain in Parramatta that are important to Aboriginal people.

Reflecting its European history which dates back to 1788, Parramatta contains many significant heritage buildings and places. The centre of Parramatta is home to well-known historical places such as Elizabeth Farm House, Experiment Farm Cottage and Old Government House.

The heritage must be balanced with Parramatta now and in the future.

indigenous man at traditional ceremony

More open spaces

True global cities like New York and Paris value open spaces, like the famous Central Park and the Tuileries Gardens that lead to the Champs Elysée.

Parramatta already boasts over 350 parks and reserves like the popular Parramatta Park which boasts 85 hectares of open space with grasslands, mature trees, gardens and river frontage, features popular cycleways, walking paths, and historic buildings. However, the Parramatta CBD lacks public space where the community can gather and enjoy the great outdoors.

Developments like Parramatta Square incorporate public space. It includes an accessible 250-metre-long public esplanade which is part of the City’s plan to transform its public spaces.

In 2020, the Western Sydney Business Chamber unveiled a concept to transform the historic Lancer Barracks, located next to Parramatta Station, into a new open green space and public square for Sydney’s booming Central City.

Opening the Lancer Barracks as a new public square, alongside the new playing fields for the schools on the site of the old Arthur Phillip High School, would create up to 1.1 ha of new green and public space for Parramatta’s limited public domain.

The City of Parramatta will continue to develop as more businesses and government departments relocate to the River City, but more investment and planning are required for it to reach its true potential as a global city.

Parramatta park