Image - an example of urbanism designed by Diecke Richards in the suburbs. Student Housing in the emerging regional Centre of Springfield
By any measure Australia has great capital cities full of remarkable urbanism - getting better by the day. As Peter has previously discussed in his blog The State of Australian Urbanism, they benefit from:
- high density,
- compact development with old and new offices and mixed-use developments with less car parking,
- excellent public transport,
- infrastructure and remarkable public buildings and
- great streets,public spaces and parks.
A strong urban mindset prevails, combined with an underlying congruence between policy making and delivery by Government and private sector. Developers build urbanism because someone wants to have an office in it or live in it, even apartments!
Has this success created issues for urbanism in suburban and regional Australia? Perhaps city centres have been so successful they drain investment away from other places? Whatever the reason, the urban mindset that flourishes in the city finds it hard to venture out to the urban fringe, especially in newer areas.
And yet according to Ellen Dunham Jones in the USA:
- 85% of households in 2025 will not have kids
- 77% of Millenniums/Gen Y want to live in urban core
- 75% of retiring baby boomers say they want mixed use and mixed age
We need to future proof the suburbs for burgeoning consumer demand for urbanism. We can provide the benefits customers want - affordable housing; affordable living; safety; fitness – physically and mentally; less money on transport; more time, less congestion; convenience; choice and opportunities. In doing so we also save money, as Joe Nickol states "in a world where slow growth is normal, society can't afford the costs of our shopping centres"
Image: Perth has several popular examples of density and mix of housing, employment and public transport in the suburbs.
Seems pretty obvious - so what can we do?
- Promote examples which challenge this ‘suburban mindset’.
- Continue to convert suburban shopping centres, hospitals, universities and TAFE’s into mixed use centres and integrate them with their surroundings and other centres. The suburbs have great concentrations of activity and catalysts for employment. See our blog Retro for Universities?
- Understand the financial and practical hurdles around establishing higher density housing in or around public transport nodes.
- Promote the developers who create new centres with retail based on main streets and mixed-uses, with integrated employment and housing.
- Support regional local governments who challenge the 'post-war retail model' of single enclaves with internalized experiences.
- Understand the growing consumer demand for urbanism in suburban areas. This will inform the plans and policies. As well as the developers who do not want to build urbanism as "there is no demand".
- Decrease the costs of building higher density development. Apartments built from concrete with basement parking are two to three times the cost per square metre of a detached house. A new two-bedroom apartment in the regional centre can be the same cost as a four-bedroom house in a suburb no more than a short ride or drive away.
- Quantify the hidden costs of 'free' on grade parking and tax it to financially support basements or multi-deck parking structures. Car parking should no longer dominate places and reduce the ability to connect and integrate various land uses nearby.
- Reduce carparking requirements.
- Decentralization of government to enable regional centres to compete with the city centre for corporate HQ's.
Image: Core Apartments is developed by the not-for-profit Brisbane Housing Company. One, two and three bedroom layouts in both single and two-level designs. Being part of the impressive, new, urban master-planned community of Fitzgibbon Chase, Core Apartments delivers on lifestyle and proximity to all important services within the suburb. Peter Richards is on the left of Cameron Davies.
The Drew Barrymore film, ‘She’s just not that into you’, is telling here. While there is some interest by developers - investment is ‘just not that into’ regional towns and centres. Especially those relatively close to capital cities. We need to do more than write strong visions, produce glossy award winning urban design plans and dream up implementation strategies.
There is nothing new in these recomnmendations. And disappointingly, they still need to be made more than 20 years since urban design has become well understood and practiced in Australia.
Vibrant capital city centres are only part of the urban future and these places can almost look after themselves now.
There is a need for economic incentives to make urbanism more cost effective, to actively encourage commercial office developments and higher density apartment buildings. To do so we need to rein in the dominance of the city centre and remove the ‘suburban mindset’ for the ‘urban mindset’. Every place is a form of urbanism of varying intensities and characters.
Wednesday 8 August, 2012
Placefocus links: Value of Urban Design; Place Tools (Additional Information Promoting Urban Design)
Further Information: Great Places Stuck in No Place at All by Joe Nickol
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