Property News, Insights & Education

    Rosehill Racecourse: A Model for Future Urban Development in Australia?

    The Golden Slipper - the world's richest race for two-year-old thoroughbreds could have a new home, under an audacious plan that would see Sydney's Rosehill Gardens racecourse relocated and replaced by 25,000 homes.


    The new “mini-city” at Rosehill is the centrepiece of a scheme unveiled by the New South Wales state government this week to help tackle the housing crisis by building around 200,000 homes over the next 15 years.


    The Minns government has promised that around a quarter of those homes will be built within 1200, metres of a railway station, including those in the proposed Rosehill development.


    There’s also been confirmation that the multibillion-dollar MetroWest underground rail project to link parts of Sydney’s west to the city will be going ahead, although the exact details of its route and stations are yet to be announced.


    The state government has signed a tentative agreement with the Australian Turf Club (ATC) - which owns all of Sydney’s major racecourses - to build 25,000 homes, a new school, a new station on the Metro West line and a large urban park on the site of what’s now Rosehill Gardens racecourse.


    How the deal would work


    It was actually the Australian Turf Club that approached the New South Wales government with the proposal, which would see the club retain ownership of the Rosehill site until it was developed.


    The ATC says it expects to raise around $5 billion from the development, although Racing New South Wales Chief Executive Peter V’landys told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper “on the high level maybe $7 billion”.


    The proceeds would be invested in racing, training and facilities at all ATC venues, including transforming the Warwick Farm track in Sydney's south-west into what’s been described as a “world-class track”.   


    New South Wales Premier, Chris Minns, said the government jumped at the ATC’s proposal because it was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for Sydney.


    “For the first time, the city is actually marrying public transport infrastructure with new housing,” he told journalists at a press conference at the Rosehill track.


    “We cannot have a situation like we've had for the last decade where we've had brand new housing and no infrastructure or major new infrastructure and virtually no new housing.” 


    “For the first time, we're getting it right, putting the two together and ensuring where dollars are being spent by the government on behalf of taxpayers, it's money well spent for the future of this city.”


    It's not yet clear where the racecourse will be moved to, but the government says it is discussing several possible sites with the ATC.




    Sporting tradition collides with realpolitik


    According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Rosehill is at the demographic centre of Greater Sydney. 


    Adjacent to the large business and transport hub of Parramatta - often referred to as Sydney’s “Second CBD”, the area is already served by some transport links.


    “There will be an understandable outcry from trainers, owners, members, and racing traditionalists’, says Andrew Webster, Chief Sports writer at the Sydney Morning Herald.


    “Rosehill, bless it, is a much-loved track opened in 1885 and steeped in history.”


    “Slipper Day remains one of the best programs on the Australian calendar but holding it at Randwick or Warwick Farm will feel weird.”


    However, Mathew Hounsell, a transport and cities expert at Sydney’s University of Technology, thinks the ATC has made a wise move to voluntarily turn over Rosehill racecourse for housing - before it was forced to.


    “It wasn't going to stay a racecourse for long, because it is close to our second CBD (Parramatta),” he told ABC Radio.


    “It's just such a great property.”


    “Either the ATC would have redeveloped it or it would have been compulsorily acquired (by the state government).” 


    Way of the future?


    There’s no doubt the way the Rosehill deal unfolds will be closely watched by racing and sporting bodies around the country, particularly those that have large land holdings in urban centres.


    The Moonee Valley Racing Club in Melbourne’s inner north-west - the home of the weight-for-age classic Cox Plate - has already begun turning over a quarter of the 40 hectares it owns for a $2 billion residential development, partly bankrolled by superannuation fund HostPlus.


    By the end of 2035, it expects there to be around 2,000 homes - mainly apartments - on the site.


    There’s been staunch opposition to the development from local community groups, but the planning imperatives to build more in-fill housing in Australia’s relatively low-density cities will likely see those objections overruled.


    Transport and cities expert Matthew Hounsell certainly seems to be expecting more of these sorts of pragmatic urban in-fill deals between large landholders like racing clubs and governments.


    “You can't continuously expand (Sydney) west,” he says.


    “It costs too much money and puts too much burden on the government to keep on supporting very expensive infrastructure.”


    “It's what's bankrupted several cities in the United States and the United Kingdom - constantly sprawling cities.”