Two city laneways will no longer be the scene of garbage collectors, workers on a smoke break and pedestrians taking shortcuts.
The City of Sydney council will transform Wilmot and Central streets, which link George and Pitt streets near Event Cinemas, into food destinations packed with pop-up carts, alfresco dining areas and live music, it announced on Wednesday. The eat streets will be closed to traffic and feature video projections and LED lighting.
"[The laneways] have been important pedestrian thoroughfares for more than a century," lord mayor Clover Moore said. "But their design doesn't reflect this, with poor lighting and narrow footpaths that force people to walk on the roadway. Given their prime location in Sydney's entertainment precinct, we want to reclaim them as safer and more relaxing spaces for pedestrians.''
The project is the latest undertaken by the council as part of a multimillion-dollar revitalisation program launched in 2009 to emulate Melbourne's laneway culture. Ash Street and Angel Place near Wynyard are now food hubs in their own right. Rundown laneways earmarked for conversion include Bulletin Place, Lees Court and York Lane.
The council will call for building tenders for work to begin in March. It expects the project to take 30 weeks to complete.
Wilmot and Central laneways back onto Koreatown's strip of restaurants and Asian supermarkets. Korean Society of Sydney president Luke Song said the group plans to operate at least six food carts in the revamped laneways in a similar vein to the street food available in Seoul.
''We're very excited. We want to create a Koreatown and make it an area more attractive to tourists,'' he said. ''We will be offering Korean barbecue and also Chinese and other international foods. There will be variety.''
Arvin Ramalimgam, licensee of The Metro music venue, which has sat at the intersection of George and Central streets for 25 years, felt uneasy about the project when he heard about it six months ago.
''I was slightly sceptical as we used the laneway as a pick-up and drop-off zone,'' he said. ''But we sat down with the council and we were happy it will be a shared space.''
Mr Ramalimgam believes George Street lacks the pulling power of comparable thoroughfares in London and New York. ''Broadway and Oxford Street are tourist highlights, but George Street just seems to be a pathway from one end of the city to the other. The change is a good thing because it will increase pedestrian activity.''