The Sydney Story: Darling Harbor
by Martin Millspaugh
The Baltimore Renaissance was started in the 1960's
to reverse the decline of the Central Business District and redevelop
the decayed and abandoned old Inner Harbor. The blocks surrounding
the harbor basin were revitalized with headquarters office buildings,
and the shoreline was renewed as a playground for Baltimoreans. Major
attractions were added in the 1970's, and by the 1980's, the Inner
Harbor was attracting an attendance of more than 20 million residents
This was a new idea in the 1970's, but with the Inner
Harbor and Fells Point put together, within two years the news about
the Baltimore phenomenon had spread to other cities - helped along
by publicity in the professional planning magazines and a report
in the New York Times -- after the opening of the Aquarium in 1981--
that the Inner Harbor was drawing more people than DisneyWorld.
At Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management, Inc., the
non-profit corporation that had been created to direct the redevelopment
program, we began to be inundated by city planners, officials and
business leaders from other cities in the U.S. and overseas. They
wanted to know how the Baltimore Renaissance was brought about, and
what parts of it they could put to use back home.
In October of 1983, I received a phone call from a
gentleman named Tom Hayson in Sydney, Australia, saying that he had
been reading about Baltimore's Inner Harbor in the Sydney Morning
Herald describing Martin Millspaugh as President of the “Charles
Centre and Inner Harbour Management, Inc.” Tom was planning a round-the-world
trip in order to learn how Darling Harbour in Sydney could be redeveloped,
and he wanted to know whether we could get together if he came to
Baltimore. I told him of course I would be glad to see him, and he
and his wife, Ngaire, arrived in Baltimore a few weeks later.
The reason Tom wanted to see Baltimore was that his
real estate development firm, the Hayson Group of Companies, Ltd.,
had purchased the huge Sydney Wool Stores -- the former warehouses
where the Australian wool had been stored while waiting to be put
on ships. By the 1980's, the wool was no longer stored, but was being
taken directly to the ships, and the Wool Stores stood empty and
The Hayson Group saw that those warehouses formed
one entire side of the wall of buildings enclosing the old Sydney
port area known as Darling Harbour. The similarity of that space
to Baltimore's Inner Harbor was striking. Like the Inner Harbor,
Darling Harbour had been vacated by deep-sea shipping when the container
ships took over. In addition, the shoreline of Darling Harbour was
occupied by a former railroad yard which also stood vacant and obsolete,
like the Wool Stores. The Haysons realized that the whole area was
ripe for redevelopment by a combination of public and private investment.
Tom felt this offered an opportunity to create a “people
place” for Sydney's celebration of the Australian Bicentennial Anniversary
in 1988. The local government of New South Wales had lost the competition
to create a World Expo to Brisbane, and they were determined to impress
the World in some other way at the time of the Bicentennial.
Tom's company had previously specialized in the restoration
and recycling of urban residential buildings. The Australian real
estate industry knew little about “people places,” or how to create
them; so in typical Tom Hayson fashion, he set out to go around the
world to see what sort of things had been done in other cities with
Tom and Ngaire arrived at our house one evening on
their return trip to Australia. It was dinnertime, and my wife, Meredith,
and I took them to the restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency
Hotel - with the best view in Baltimore. It was a lovely snowy evening
that created a warm feeling of friendship, which Tom and I both remember
today. Meredith owned a VIP visitor tour business at the time, and
the following day she and I showed Tom and Ngaire the Inner Harbor
- first from my office on the 14th floor of the World Trade Center,
and then the major projects on the ground -- the attractions that
were responsible for the City's new spirit of pride and millions
of dollars of income from the tourism industry.
By afternoon, Tom's extraordinary natural enthusiasm
had taken over. After seeing how the two pavilions of Harborplace
acted as a catalyst for the entire ”critical mass” of many attractions,
Tom was determined to meet Jim Rouse. I called Jim and he was booked
up, but he made an exception for some one who had come so far. Tom
and I met with Jim for an hour or so in his new city of Columbia,
halfway between Baltimore and Washington.
The next day, Tom and Ngaire left for the long trip
back to Australia, but he telephoned me during a stop in Los Angeles
to say, “Martin...Baltimore is the answer. After going around the
World to see all of the best cities, I know that what we need to
do in Sydney is what you and Jim and the others have done in Baltimore.”
He invited me and Meredith to come to Sydney for ten days, to talk
to the Government and the real estate establishment there about Master
Planning and the implementation process that had produced the success
of Charles Center and the Inner Harbor.
Tom said he would send two first class, round-trip
tickets, but Sydney was then so far away that hardly any one in Baltimore
had ever been there, and I thought that would probably never happen.
Nevertheless, about the first of March, an envelope arrived in the
mail from Qantas, and off we went. I learned that it was typical
of Tom to make extravagant promises ... and then live up to them
During our visit, Tom launched a consummate public
relations blitz to impress the decision-makers in Sydney. He made
arrangements for me to appear on the Australian TV “Today Show” and
the “Good Morning Sydney” show, and to give a lecture sponsored by
the Royal Australian Institute of Architects; plus press interviews
at the top of a building overlooking Darling Harbour; a press conference
announcing Tom's plans for the Wool Stores; a reception for assorted
VIP's and opinion leaders (including the skipper of the Australian
yacht that had just won the America's Cup), and a ceremonial reception
by the Lord Mayor at the Town Hall.
By the end of a week, Tom's not-so-subtle campaign
had convinced the Government's top city planners to meet with us
and to see the slide presentation, called “City Alive,” which I had
created to document the Charles Center-Inner Harbor story for planners
and officials from other cities who wanted to emulate the Baltimore
Meredith and I spent the second weekend at a penthouse
with a swimming pool on top of the Hayson Group's apartment building
in Surfers' Paradise - the first luxury high-rise on the Gold Coast
reaching northward from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef. (While
there, we were treated to the experience of witnessing a typhoon
swirling around us on the 34th floor).
On the last day we returned to Sydney for a meeting
with Laurie Brereton, the Government's Cabinet Minister for Public
Works, Roads and Ports. He would be in charge of the Bicentennial
Celebration, and he had been persuaded to see us by Tom Hayson's
blitz of public and private promotion. Brereton's office had scheduled
30 minutes, but he became fascinated with the Baltimore story and
we spent 60 minutes before he would allow us to leave.
Tom was determined to persuade the Government of New
South Wales to develop a “people place” in Darling Harbour, but the
great hurdle that faced them was the timing: they would have to create
in four years the same kind of project that took 15 years to develop
But they had advantages: I could tell them honestly
that they had a chance to do it in four years, because (1) the former
railroad yard that made up the shoreline of Darling Harbour was already
owned by the government, thus saving years that would have been required
for property acquisition and relocation of the existing occupants,
and (2) the government had already appropriated the necessary $200
million in public funds, eliminating years of planning analysis,
political decisions and documentation.
Tom Hayson picked up that argument by pointing out
that in Baltimore there was a model already in existence - showing
them what to plan for and how to deliver it. The obvious conclusion,
he told the government, was that the Baltimore development team was
essential to advise and assist in that task.
By this time, Jim Rouse had retired from The Rouse
Company to form the Enterprise Foundation and its Development Company.
Tom Hayson and I had agreed that Jim should also visit Sydney - a
great man and a great city - but Jim had declined when Tom asked
him about it back in Columbia. While I was in Sydney, I learned that
Jim was going to give a talk in Hawaii. I realized he would be halfway
there, and maybe I could persuade him to go the rest of the way.
I did that, by calling him on the phone from our room in the Regent
Hotel, overlooking the Sydney Harbour, and describing the fascination
of the scene that was spread out below, with a gleaming white cruise
ship docking at the base of the skyscrapers of the CBD.
I remember saying, “Jim, any one who loves cities
as much as you do has got to come see this place.” He took me at
my word and in May he made the trip to Sydney. He gave a lecture
sponsored by the Royal Institute and attended by 700 of the city's
leading citizens. It was followed up by extensive press interviews
describing Jim's reputation as a uniquely creative developer and
his trailblazing philosophy of benevolent capitalism.
Shortly after that, Tom called me to say he had managed
to persuade the Government to retain Enterprise as a consultant to
the Hayson Group -- to prepare the original concept of a Master Plan
for Darling Harbour. I was still President and Chief Executive of
CC-IH, Inc., but I called Jim and Aubrey Gorman, who was then President
of the Enterprise Development Company, from an isolated telephone
booth next to a highway leading to our vacation spot in the Poconos.
Over the phone I negotiated an agreement between Enterprise and the
Hayson Group of Companies, which Jim later confirmed in a two-and-a-half
page letter to Tom.
The Government committed $25,000 for Mort Hoppenfeld,
Enterprise's chief urban planner, to go to Australia and show the
Government planners how the Master Plan should work. After his first
trip, Mort reported back to us that the Sydney Government's idea
of a plan was unworkable. He and Jim and I met around my dining room
table and worked over a new conceptual master plan that Mort had
developed in Sydney.
In the meantime, the Premier of New South Wales, Neville
Wran, had appointed Laurie Brereton as the member of his Cabinet
to be czar of the Darling Harbour undertaking, moving it out of the
hands of the City Council. Brereton decided he should see for himself
what had been done in Baltimore.
He and his wife, Trish, came to Baltimore, and Jim,
Aubrey, Mort and I took them to the top of the Hyatt for cocktails.
From there the nighttime view of the entire Inner Harbor area and
the skyline are at their best, and Mort laid his conceptual plan
on the coffee table for Laurie Brereton to see. He was put off at
first by the criticism of his Government's plan, but he quickly saw
the merit of Mort's version, and then and there the Master Plan for
Darling Harbour was set.
The saga of the Master Plan was complete when Mort
made another trip to Sydney to show the new conceptual Master Plan
to the Premier. With Brereton's support, the Premier was also convinced,
and said he would approve the plan. Mort said, “well then, sign it
now,” and the Premier did sign it and it became official. It is reproduced
in a photograph in the Tom Hayson biography, “Dare to Dream,” written
by Kevin Perkins in 2001.
Even so, the story of Darling Harbour took a rocky
route from that point forward. The Opposition Party to the Government
of New South Wales attacked it vigorously as a “white elephant” dreamed
up by Wran's Labor Party Government. That gave the tabloid newspapers
the ammunition to write stories based on critical and damaging assumptions,
which later turned out to be untrue. The architecture and planning
establishment resented the choice of an American company to create
the Master Plan; so the detailed design and planning was turned over
to Sydney architects.
Premier Wran's Labor Party Government created a Darling
Harbour Authority to legalize the exclusion of the City Council.
This put in place a “delivery system” like the Charles Center-Inner
Harbor Corporation in Baltimore, but it meant the Haysons' role was
diminished to that of any other private developer. They were required
to enter a competition for the rights to develop the festival marketplace,
which was to be fashioned in the image of Baltimore's Harborplace.
The Hayson and Enterprise team was awarded the rights
to develop the festival marketplace, to be called Darling Harbourside.
That launched them into the monumental task of producing a pioneering,
high-risk, complex “place-making” project, while the Authority set
about the task of producing $500 million of Government buildings
and infrastructure, including the harbor parks and promenade, a Convention
and Exhibition Center, a maritime museum, aquarium and the roads
and bridges to make them accessible to millions of visitors by January
of 1988 - the Australian Bicentennial - less than four years off.
By then I had moved from the Charles Center-Inner
Harbor public-private partnership to join Jim Rouse in the Enterprise
Development Company as, first, Executive Vice President and later
President, and Tom retained Enterprise as a “Consultant-Developer”
to partner with him and his son, Ian, in the Hayson Group of Companies.
During the next 3 ½ years, Jim and I talked constantly
on the phone with Tom and Ian and their project manager, Pat Gocher.
We corresponded with Brereton to flesh out the Master Plan, and Bob
Barron, the Chief Financial Officer of Enterprise, and I went to
Australia to negotiate the land development agreement with the Darling
Harbour Authority. The visits of our specialists who knew how to
merchandise and design a festival marketplace were equally important.
Tom and Ian assembled a blue-ribbon team of their own. Their specialists
who had the critical job of leasing the marketplace came to the U.S.,
where they were trained at Enterprise projects by our people, headed
by Bowie Arnot, who had leased most of the Harborplace project in
We had come to feel that another critical ingredient
of such a project is the merchandising mix - the selection and the
space layout of many small shops and restaurants and low-keyed leisure
attractions. In order to achieve the festival character in Darling
Harbourside, we had the Enterprise merchandising team of Michael
McCall and Gary King work with Bob Perry of the Haysons' architects,
Clarke, Perry and Blackmore, and educate them in the basics of merchandising
and space planning of a festival marketplace.
When the Grand Opening was finally scheduled, the
Sydney choice for General Manager of the marketplace was unable to
proceed; so Enterprise's Chief Property Manager, Vann Massey, went
to Sydney for two months to open the project and supervise its operation
through the critical first few weeks.
During its development, Darling Harbour went through
many more controversies between the warring political parties, and
even the union workers -- whose party was in power - almost scuttled
the whole undertaking by staging unauthorized, wildcat walkouts and
work stoppages to exact more pay from the government at a time when
the deadline was running out.
Somehow, through superhuman, very tense (and therefore
un-Australian) efforts, the job was done. The Darling Harbour “people
place” staged a “soft,” but celebrated opening on the anniversary
of the Bicentennial on January 22, 1988. By May of that year, the
finishing touches had been put into place, and Darling Harbourside
was ready to be officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II when she
made a State visit to Australia.
In the end, Darling Harbourside looks a great deal
like Harborplace in Baltimore, with the addition of a great vaulted
glass Galleria joining the two marketplace pavilions. Darling Harbour
as a whole also resembles the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, except that
it faces toward the CBD skyscrapers instead of away from them. Unlike
the decision to reroute the I-95 expressway away from the Inner Harbor
in Baltimore, the expressway was retained in Sydney, crossing above
the entire Darling Harbour project. Actually, it became something
of an asset because it is so high in the air that the people below
are unaware of it - except as a source of shade during the hot Sydney
The senior Enterprise team went to Australia for the opening by
the Queen. Tom Hayson stole the show when he conducted the Queen
and the Duke of Edinburgh through the festival marketplace prior
to their appearance on a balcony overlooking the Promenade, where
thousands of Sydney residents were gathered to honor the Queen.
When the loudspeakers thundered out the announcement of the arrival
of “Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh,” she emerged
onto the balcony escorted by Tom Hayson. The crown roared, and
Tom acquired photographic evidence of a once-in-anyone's lifetime
The rest of Darling Harbour's history has been similar
to the beginning. Its fate has gone up and down in the face of political
crises and the up-and-down cycles of the real estate business, such
as the worldwide real estate depression of 1989-90, but it survived
to become the most visited building in Australia - with an annual
attendance reaching 14 million - and it was instrumental in the choice
of Sydney as the site of the summer Olympic Games of 2000.
Nick Greiner, the leader of the Liberal Opposition
Party who had vigorously fought the creation of Wran's bicentennial
project in 1984, was Premier when the Olympics decision was made.
He said, “I would not have bid for the 2000 Games if Sydney had not
had Darling Harbour.”