Original Chinatown overhaul to light up Sydney’s cultural heart

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

A new look for Sydney’s original Chinatown has been revealed ahead of proposed transformative renovations.

Sydney City Council are set to splash $44 million on the proposed plans to reinvigorate Haymarket’s Chinatown and its surrounds, breathing new life into the Asian culture hub.

If approved, the concept designs will transform Dixon Street into a vibrant lane of lights, colour and energy, boosting business and attracting visitors.

New lighting, social seating and pavement upgrades will complement traditional elements such as the Chinese five-colour clouds and the Taoist concept of Qi.

The design proposals hope to reassociate the area as one of Sydney’s best dining and entertainment precincts, with shop-front culinary preparations creating a theatrical interface on the streets.

Cheap eats here to stay

City of Sydney councillor HY William Chan, who has a background in architecture and design excellence advocacy, told Build-it community collaboration has been paramount in developing the design plans.

“The community has told us that they want Haymarket to continue to be authentic, affordable and local,” he said.

“The new concept designs for the southern part of Dixon Street in Chinatown are a result of the City of Sydney’s collaboration with the community and local architects.”

“Our plans will breathe new life into a culturally rich neighbourhood, honouring the area’s heritage while also making it easier for businesses to flourish.”

Councillor HY William Chan says the designs carefully balanced appeal to younger generations while ensuring the area’s cultural and historical significance was well protected.

“This project aligns with the broader strategy for Haymarket and emphasises the restoration and heritage-listing of the Chinatown Ceremonial Gates, which provide a historic entrance to our city’s only surviving original Chinatown,” he told Build-it.

“We’re also expanding the offering of retail and cultural experiences to appeal to our growing community of younger Asian Sydneysiders.”

Sydney’s original Chinatown

Originally a timber storage yard, Haymarket began to attract Chinese residents in the 1920s, with an influx of refugees in 1937 due to the Second Sino-Japanese War.

It quickly became Sydney’s oriental capital and has been synonymous with the Australian-Chinese community ever since, with the famous ceremonial gates built in 1980 using traditional Chinese materials.

The new design concept underscores the historical importance of the gates, set for restoration and heritage listing in 2024 as part of the City’s broader strategy for the Haymarket area.

Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore AO, says planned restorations of the gates include replacing broken tiles and panels and upgrading the lighting.

“The gates provide a ceremonial entrance to the only surviving original Chinatown in the city centre. By restoring and heritage listing the gates, we will ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come,” the Lord Mayor said.

The Lord Mayor says the proposed revitalisation of Dixon Street would transform the southern part of Chinatown.

“We listened carefully and closely to the community as we worked together with the designers to develop our vision for the heart of Chinatown,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Our concept deliberately reflects and incorporates traditional elements from the area in bringing a synergy to these proposals.”

The proposed designs will only cover renovations for the south part of Dixon Street. However, concept ideas have also been developed for Dixon Street’s north section, which is owned and managed by the NSW Government.

For more on the Chinatown revitalisation proposals and to comment on the Dixon Street concept design, go to Sydney Your Say.

Share This Article
Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.