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those awarded projects had subsequently been demolished because of their failure to support their intended purpose. Form before function, perhaps? Sustaining successful places to attract both new and return users requires ongoing care and thoughtful attention, and at South Bank this approach will keep us ahead of our place competitors. Mind you, we are doing pretty well already: Recent market research confirms that more than 80% of those sampled in the Greater Brisbane area had visited the precinct within the past six months. I would now like to turn to the emerging challenge, or should I say opportunity, for the precinct, which is to take advantage of the economic conditions South East Queensland is currently experiencing. Brisbane has undergone a transformation since Expo, earning it boomtown status among its cosmopolitan contemporaries in the new world. Much of the change has been fuelled by a flourishing Queensland economy, growing at 4.5% per annum— outstripping the Australian national growth rate of 3.4% and surpassing the USA at 3.1%. Demographer Bernard Salt describes the area of Greater Brisbane, defined as a 90-minute drive from the GPO, as growing at a breathtaking rate. However, he says, unlike other major cities, Greater Brisbane is not losing the character that makes it distinctly attractive and unique. So attractive in fact that 1,500 people a week are moving across the border to experience its many appealing qualities.




Inner-city Brisbane is now red hot and cool, with the South Bank/South Brisbane peninsular as its epicenter. The population 4

2005 West Side highway


1 Case study location 2 Light transmission and lack of summer shading 3 Ongoing construction 1998 - 2005 4 Highway and bike path expansion, West 66th to 72nd street 5 Public waterfront access 6 Grade change, view from walkway below 7 City streets end at residential high-rise developments, footpath design to waterfront disregards grid 8 Public information / security? 9 West 66th street pier continuation of the city block 10 Public space? 11 Community uses 12 Running and bicycle track below highway


of the peninsula is expected to more than double to 40,000 residents by 2026, overtaking the New Farm/Fortitude Valley peninsula to the CBD’s north, which is already near capacity with a population of 20,000 residents. Recently commissioned independent demographic research indicates that South Bank and the surrounding areas of West End and South Brisbane will, in less than 20 years, be one of the densest residential areas in Australia. Urban consolidation on this scale poses big questions and big challenges for city government. South Bank is reflecting on the role it can play in this inner-urban transformation to work with city government to avoid the pitfalls of gentrification and understand what it is that our precinct offers to those new residents: In a nutshell, space, specifically public open space in an area with precious little of it. In forsaking the suburban backyard for an inner-city balcony, increasing numbers of Australians will be moving closer to the experiences of their European counterparts. The availability and quality of public spaces in our cities therefore becomes critical and so in South Bank we face the prospect of not just managing our existing public realm well to accommodate this shift but to creating, where we can, more flexible, user-responsive open space capable of adaptation and even temporary modification. Moving to my final theme, I would like to offer some personal observations on the future of urban renewal and how best it might translate to results on the ground as measured in tangible community outcomes. All state capitols are vigorously pursuing urban-consolidation policy agendas with zealous vigour. Metropolitan planning agencies have recalibrated the carrying capacity of the existing city footprint to impose much higher levels of density. Brisbane is no exception to this national, and some might argue overdue, shift in planning policy, with the much vaunted SE Regional Plan dictating that a target of an additional 150,000 new dwelling units be built by the year 2020 within the Brisbane City Council area alone. In theory that looks achievable, but in reality it is proving far harder for the candidate urban renewal areas to be found and the sites assembled. Why? Because of fragmented ownership, accelerating property values, and overly restrictive planning controls. A classic case perhaps of strategic policy ideology not being matched by the real world mechanisms required to deliver it. What concerns me about some of the urbanrenewal effort in Australia at present is that


I think there are some significant exceptions to this problem, and Brisbane City Council through Urban Renewal Brisbane, originally set up by the late Trevor Reddacliffe but since reinvented, is such an example. Given the urgency of the urban-consolidation push however, alternative delivery approaches are needed and so a growing number of state government development corporations have and are being formed to take on the task in strategic locations: East Perth, Sydney Harbour Foreshore, Melbourne Docklands, Darwin Waterfront, Port Adelaide, Hobart’s Sullivans Cove, and of course South Bank, Brisbane, to name some of the more prominent. Although with different terms of reference, they all have been conceived with a consistent aim—to manage urban redevelopment efficiently. I firmly believe that the development corporation model offers a governance vehicle equal to the urban-renewal challenge confronting Australian cities. I say that, though, with some strict caveats, and they relate to the need for full public accountability and an uncompromising commitment to community engagement. I’m not implying a “one size fits all” solution but rather highlighting that the myriad issues posed in retrofitting tired places for new purposes demands a focused effort aided ideally by special planning powers and a capacity to act commercially in order to secure the community dividends I spoke of earlier. I think South Bank is an exemplar of this in practice, with the results clearly evident and a city populace who reaffirm it by voting with their feet in record numbers—more than 11 million last year, to be precise.






In conclusion I will attempt to pull together the themes I have touched on by applying the umbrella framework of sustainability, specifically the concept of multiple sustainability. The task of urban renewal, as it I believe it must be approached in Australian cities, aligns well with the proposition that developing sustainable precincts must necessarily embrace environmental, social,


cultural, and economic dimensions equally. I say equally because so much of what is extolled in the name of sustainability is onedimensional—a singular preoccupation by both government and the private sector with the virtues of “green design,” with very little if any attention paid to other dimensions. Of course we must create places that are not harmful to the natural environment and human health but just as critical are the availability of basic social services, of avoiding social exclusion, of ensuring access to financial opportunities for all groups, of encouraging cultural diversity and freedom of expression, and of respecting the distinctiveness and identity of a particular part of the city, revealed through its heritage as well as its modern incarnations. Only when performance indicators such as these are applied in measuring the value of urban-renewal strategies not to the government or to the developers but to the broader community will we be able to unequivocally say that the exercise can be judged successful. It is certainly the strategic reference framework South Bank is now applying.


it has largely been left to local government to actually execute it. Most, if not all, of those usually inner-city councils targeted by government as the recipients of density hikes are already operating under significant fiscal and administrative pressures. As a consequence, the urban-renewal effort is sporadic and uncoordinated, often regarded as an additional layer of urban management competing for a slice of a small resource pie and vulnerable to the whims of political patronage. “Short-termism,” as I referred to it earlier, all too commonly overwhelms the good intentions of early precinct planning.


Inner-city Brisbane is now red hot and cool, with the South Bank/South Brisbane peninsular as its epicenter. The population What concerns me...

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