28 Aug 2023

Barangaroo: Sydney’s financial hub is a placemaking success


Barangaroo stands tall in the heart of Sydney as a testament to the power of successful placemaking. The placemaking process, which puts community at the heart of planning and development decisions, has transformed this former disused container wharf. Previously closed off to the public for generations, the precinct now receives approximately 33,000 visitors daily.  
In a singular example of the adage, ‘build it and they will come’, Barangaroo now houses major financial and professional services industry representatives, including financial regulators, banks, financiers, insurance companies, and Australia’s leading legal and accounting firms. These companies operate at Barangaroo South, alongside a thriving residential and entertainment neighbourhood. 

Developing a financial powerhouse 

Barangaroo began as an ambitious project that aimed to create a new financial and professional services CBD in Sydney comparable to global financial hubs such as Wall Street. The visionaries behind the design were tasked with creating a socially and environmentally sustainable harbourside precinct.  

Anita Mitchell is Chief Executive of Placemaking for NSW and from 2010 to 2016, led the environmental and social sustainability strategy for Barangaroo South. 

“Barangaroo represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a forgotten part of the city and turn it into something dynamic and sustainable – and really added a new part of the city that everybody could embrace.”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking for NSW

Formerly known as East Darling Harbour, the site underwent a state-wide competition in 2006 to find its new name. Barangaroo was chosen from over 1,600 entries. The name honours the First Nations woman of the same name. 

Bennelong was the second husband of Barangaroo, who inspired the naming of Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House stands today. Renowned as a prominent Aboriginal leader in the late 1700s and a member of the Cammeraygal clan of the Eora Nation, Barangaroo was recognised for her remarkable strength, integrity, and resilience. The symbolic dedication of the name Barangaroo underscores the city’s commitment to honouring and acknowledging the enduring and profound connection of Aboriginal peoples to the land. 

Following its naming, Lendlease secured the tender to develop Barangaroo South in 2009, setting the stage for its transformation. 

Barangaroo Skyscraper Buildings

Reimagining space for financial and professional services 

The success of Barangaroo’s placemaking can be measured by its ability to attract high-level financial and professional services firms. Sydney accommodates 80% of foreign banks operating in Australia, along with eight of the country’s largest fund managers and many financial services regulators. Through careful planning and leveraging Sydney’s strong reputation for financial innovation, Barangaroo has become a magnet for collaboration, drawing in global giants such as KPMG, Lendlease, RICS, and Swiss Re, among others. 

Barangaroo has reimagined city offices and corporate life, focusing on the wellbeing of the people occupying the spaces – creating attractive and healthy environments in which to work and socialise. World-leading end-of-trip facilities – such as 1,100 bike spaces and change facilities for 22,000 workers – combined with walking and cycling trails and waterfront dining, have transformed it into more than just a place where people come to work.

Over $40 million was invested in unique artwork across the Barangaroo site, making it home to the highest concentration of public art in the city. 

“It was all about creating a thriving and vibrant precinct – making sure that the whole experience was something people gravitated towards.”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking for NSW

Connecting communities 

Beyond its role as a financial and professional services hub, Barangaroo has made significant social impacts. The Barangaroo Skills Exchange (BSX) was set up in 2013 in partnership with TAFE as an onsite learning hub. This hub was vital in developing a skilled workforce for the precinct’s construction. Its primary objective was to address the challenge of sourcing skilled labour by providing on-the-job training to workers and apprentices.  

Through hands-on learning experiences, the BSX bridged the gap between theory and practice, ensuring the workforce at Barangaroo was equipped to tackle the unique challenges of sustainable development. 

An integral part of the BSX was a commitment to providing training, skills and employment for First Nations peoples. The Aboriginal Participation Plan for Barangaroo South targeted 500 Indigenous Australians to work on the project during and after construction. 

Now a thriving precinct of 3,500 residents and 24,000 office workers, it’s important to recognise the area’s history. The site on which Barangaroo stands was used for fishing and hunting by its original custodians, the Gadigal people. The traditional owners of the Sydney city region, they comprise 29 clan groups collectively known as the Eora Nation.  

“When visitors come to Barangaroo, we offer tours where we delve into the rich 65,000-year history of the area. We share details of the initial encounters between Aboriginal and British communities in 1788 and how the people that lived in this area connect to country – to the land, trees, the rocks.”

Tim Gray

Visitor service guide, Barangaroo

Offering cultural tours and immersive experiences, the precinct allows visitors to delve into the rich heritage and traditions of the land, fostering a deeper appreciation for the First Nations peoples’ history. 

Elevating Sydney’s financial landscape 

Barangaroo’s successful placemaking journey has transformed a neglected wharf into a vibrant precinct that has reshaped Sydney’s financial and professional services landscape, creating a space that encourages connection and collaboration. 

“If you look at the tenancy list, the goal of becoming an ecosystem of financial and professional services has certainly been achieved.”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking for NSW

Sydney has firmly established itself as the destination where innovation thrives, and financial services events find their perfect stage.