City centre not just about businesses

Our city centres don’t have to be a barren concrete jungle solely occupied by workers on the 9am-5pm grind.

Hatch RobertsDay Partner Mike Day is calling on all cities to reinvent the way they view their central business districts by adopting the new term ‘urban centre’ as more professionals return to work post lockdown.

“We have traditionally called our city centres within Australia central business districts, but I think that’s a bit of a misnomer,” he said.

“We need a new term for central business districts as we are seeing a mix and overlap of amenities used in daily living.”

According to Mr Day more needs to be done to attract people into our cities, but it will take the concerted effort of planners and councils to re-conceptualise the purpose and function of urban centres.

“One of the things planners have learnt in the last 10 or 15 years is that we need to move away from single uses,” Mr Day said.

“Single use public spaces are residential areas, shopping centres and business parks. Everything is separated, forcing commuters to drive from one public space to another.”

Re-inventing the Perth CBD with greater passive and active public open spaces will attract more buyers to the city according to Ray White Director and Selling Principal Brent Compton.

“Perth is already blessed with an outdoor lifestyle that many in the world would envy,” he said. “The creation of further green spaces with more outdoor facilities and more people added from increased density would be fantastic for Perth.”

The feedback from inner-city homebuyers is that Perth needs more multi-use spaces for entertainment, according to Mr Compton.

“Every person investing in the city naturally would like to see more development, except when it is at the expense of their views,” he said.

“The next five years of growth in development will see Perth flourish into a must-stay-and-play visitor destination for each and every tourist to Western Australia.”

Once the Chairman of the Subiaco Redevelopment Authority and Board Member of the East Perth Redevelopment Authority, Mr Day said projects in the past had been successful at drawing visitors in.

“One of the projects I worked on was the Belvidere site in East Perth,” he said. “What was once a bus depot tuned into an urban centre filled with legible urban character, with a unique sense of place and belonging.”

The final design comprised a mix of offices, duplexes, medium-density town homes and an eight-storey apartment building to maximise Swan River views, along with an interconnected street pattern that incorporated green spaces.

One of the key goals in planning redevelopments is maintaining the original character appeal, according to Mr Day.

“Some new areas can be too pristine, leaving a once historic area wiped of its history,” he said. “The communities I’ve worked with and the East Perth and Subiaco Development Board like to maintain the character of an otherwise old area.

“We wanted to keep some of the grit and chaos, instead of a polished and sanitised new development.”

As for potential projects for a Perth city urban centre, Mr Day recommended looking to our main attractions.

“Kings Park is a huge attraction in Perth,” he said. “A cable car could transport visitors to and from Kings Park to the city.

“A correlation could be created between Kings Park, the South Perth Foreshore and the city.”

To combat headache-wrenching traffic, Mr Day said we needed to look to better modes of transport.

“Perth has a great public transport system, but maybe we should look to more water transport. By having water transport to universities such as UWA or to our residential suburbs along the river, there will be less traffic and more revitalisation downtown.”

Perhaps the message is to preserve what we already have, Mr Compton said, adding additional public spaces could be costly.

“Anywhere near the bus and train stations is a great space for more entertaining infrastructure. But I think it will be an expensive challenge to create more green spaces,” he said.

“I think we should ensure the ones we have are looked after and made very accessible and enjoyable for locals.”

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