Future outlook

CBD and Harbour

CBD and Harbour is expecting sizeable population growth in the coming years as a result of several large-scale residential developments. The dominance of office land uses is expected to continue, with the high employment density of such land uses underpinning strong employment growth. Meanwhile a number of large-scale infrastructure projects will help enhance accessibility to CBD and Harbour and build on its reputation as a world-class tourist destination.

Population growth

Over the period 2011 to 2031, the population of the CBD and Harbour is forecast to increase by more than double from 8,338 to almost 18,000 (see Table 12).

This represents an annual growth rate of 472 people, or 3.9%.

Despite the relatively low population base, Figure 11 shows that this area is expected to have the third highest population growth of all the City’s villages in terms of number of new residents per annum.

This will be influenced by the high density residential developments planned for the area, such as the residential towers proposed within the Barangaroo site along the western edge of CBD and Harbour.

Table 12 – Forecast Village Population, 2011–2031

Estimated Resident Population Av. Annual Growth 2011–2031
2011 2021 2031 No. %
8,338 13,840 17,780 472 3.9%
Source: id Forecast

Figure 11 – Forecast Average Annual Population Growth, 2011–2031

Figure 11 – Forecast Average Annual Population Growth, 2011 – 2031

Source: id Forecast

Demographic change

Chart 9 illustrates the forecast changes in the age profile of the area between 2011 and 2031.

The most dominant age group in 2011 was the young workforce (25–34) category, which is expected to further its dominance by 2031, with over 5,700 residents expected to fall within this category.

Significant growth is also forecast in the parents and homebuilders (35–49) category as people are showing a preference for downsizing in order to live in more central locations with higher amenity.

This will also see notable growth in the babies and pre-schoolers (0–4) category.

Equally, CBD and Harbour is expected to attract older generations in the pre-retirement and retirement life stages as they are also showing trends towards downsizing into higher density residential dwellings. 

Chart 9 – Population by Age Group, 2011 & 2031

Chart 9 – Population by Age Group, 2011 & 2031

Workforce changes

Chart 10 presents workforce forecasts for CBD and Harbour based on projections made by the Bureau of Transport Statistics in 2012.

Over the 20-year period between 2011 and 2031, growth in the local workforce is projected to be a substantial 3,135 workers per year, or 1.2% per annum.

Over the entire 35-year forecast period between 2011 and 2046, the average annual growth rate is slightly lower at 2,639 workers, or 1.0% per annum.

The absolute growth figures are very high compared to other villages, representing the substantial workforce already within the area and its status as the commercial centre of Sydney.

Chart 10 – Forecast Workforce Growth, 2011–2046

Chart 10 – Forecast Workforce Growth, 2011–2046

Major infrastructure

There are a number of major infrastructure projects currently planned or underway which will affect the central area of the City of Sydney, and most notably the CBD and Harbour and Chinatown and CBD South areas. Figure 12 illustrates these projects. Those of significance to CBD and Harbour include:

  • Barangaroo: This redevelopment of 22 hectares of disused wharves is valued at over $6 billion. The area is being transformed into commercial office towers, residential apartments and a new casino and entertainment complex. The development will also include significant public space, including waterfront walks and the Headland Park. There will also be a new ferry wharf, replacing the current Darling Harbour terminal. Upon completion in 2023, Barangaroo is expected to accommodate over 23,000 workers and residents and host an estimated 33,000 visitors a day.
  • Wynyard Walk: In connection with Barangaroo, a new pedestrian link is currently being developed between Wynyard railway station and the new development. Works on the project are expected to be completed in late 2015.
  • CBD and South East Light Rail: This significant transport infrastructure project will connect Circular Quay to Central railway station via George Street, continuing on to Randwick. This will radically alter passenger movements within the city centre, with trams eventually replacing the current heavy bus traffic that traverses George Street. When completed the line will have 20 stops along the 12km route and is expected to be capable of carrying up to 9,000 passengers per hour in each direction. Work is commencing in 2015, with construction expected to take 5 to 6 years.
  • Circular Quay Revitalisation: The area around Circular Quay is set to undergo a $1 billion redevelopment, revitalising the precinct with offices, apartments, restaurants, laneways and small bars.
  • OPT Upgrade: The Overseas Passenger Terminal is undergoing a $22 million upgrade to cater to growing demands of cruise ships and is expected to be completed in 2015.
  • Botanic Gardens Master Plan: The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust has recently released a master plan for the precinct. This includes new facilities such as an orientation centre near the Opera House and a boutique hotel on the site of the Domain Car Park. 

Figure 12 – Current and Proposed Infrastructure

Figure 12 – Current and Proposed Infrastructure  

Residential development activity

Figure 13 depicts the recently completed and future residential developments in CBD and Harbour as measured by the City of Sydney’s Residential Development Monitor.

The main projects that have been recently completed have occurred around Hyde Park, in addition to the Stamford Residences residential development completed in the northern section of CBD and Harbour.

Despite few residential developments having commenced in the city centre, there is a significant amount of development with approved development applications, 4 of which include more than 100 units. 2 further residential development applications have been lodged in the area, with proposals for 199 and 300 units.

Figure 13 – City of Sydney Residential Development Monitor, June 2013

Figure 13 – City of Sydney Residential Development Monitor, June 2013  

What does this mean for my business?

Understanding the future outlook for CBD and Harbour is important for all local businesses and those considering locating in the area.

Anticipating changes to the local resident and worker populations, along with changes to the physical environment, are important for successful long-term business planning.

In terms of future population and workforce, the future outlook for CBD and Harbour is very strong growth in both of these markets.

Furthermore, significant infrastructure projects in CBD and Harbour will change the way people access the area and add significant new attractions to support increased visitation. Overall, the city centre is expected to retain its position as the pre-eminent retail, dining and tourism destination in Sydney.


This information has been compiled from various sources. The publisher and contributors accept no responsibility for any injury, loss or damage arising from the use, error or omissions therein. While all care is taken to ensure a high degree of accuracy, users are invited to notify the City of Sydney of any discrepancies. No part of this information, including maps or data, may be reproduced without written permission.

Last updated: Tuesday, 16 June 2015