Placemaking is injecting new life into cities
Article3 min22 June 2017
Excellent city spaces don’t happen by accident. But how do they happen? And what are the benefits?
A growing number of multinational organisations' recognise that the variety of a city's lifestyle options can help it win the war to attract and retain global talent.
And many of Australia’s developers, businesses and designers see “placemaking” as the way to do that. It’s a philosophy of city planning that aims to create coherent spaces with diversity of both use and users.
The approach involves a developer partnering with multiple stakeholders – including local authorities – to create integrated office, retail and leisure precincts that address the problems of a lack of connection between buildings, barriers to foot traffic, and deserted spaces at night.
To boost Sydney’s Circular Quay’s status as an attractive destination to a global workforce - as well as to the roughly 31,000 employees from surrounding offices and the city’s 9.2 million annual visitors – Dexus recently partnered with local government to give its $80 million Gateway redevelopment the placemaking treatment.
Located at the base of Gateway Tower, the redevelopment reworked the existing footprint with the specific purpose of correcting the previous lack of natural flow between office and retail offerings.
The needs of both tenants and the broader community were considered, and now the Gateway development blends the office component with what has become one of Sydney’s best dining destinations.
Considering Gateway is at the heart of both a transport hub and a vibrant tourist precinct comprising the Sydney Opera House and the Museum of Contemporary Art among other attractions, it made a lot of sense to enhance its appeal to the after-hours crowd.
The underlying technology that enables staff to work anywhere within the Gateway development means the office is no longer isolated from what's happening at ground level
Responding to wider community needs
A clever use of voided spaces with natural light from every angle has seen the dining options within the Gateway Tower spread over three levels.
But Leasing Manager (City Retail) Pamela Medich comments that there’s infinitely more to the Gateway development than redefining Circular Quay’s dining scene.
Equally significant, she observes, is the rejuvenation of the historical Jessie Street Gardens, the only green space within the Circular Quay precinct.
“By cleverly linking back to the tiered gardens and the street network, visitors and tenants within the Gateway development no longer feel like they’re entering a glorified food court.
“The underlying technology that enables staff to work anywhere within the Gateway development means the office is no longer isolated from what's happening on the ground plane.”
Spiralling costs may be forcing space constrictions on a growing number of companies with capital city CBD offices. But one response, Medich expects, is for more companies to seek offerings similar to those within the Gateway precinct, where shared spaces can be seen as extensions of the workplace.
Jessie Gardens, the only green space within the Circular Quay precinct.
Surrounding amenities to drive leasing strategies
In light of this trend, Medich expects tenants to search out leasing strategies offering more of the placemaking theme.
“With companies the world over no longer wanting to commit to long-term leases, we think there’ll be greater interest in precincts where food is just one of many packaged amenities,” said Medich. “Extending well beyond immediate workplace needs, companies will be attracted to precincts with amenities they no longer need to provide within the confines of their own tenancy.”
Placemaking initiatives can be found in every Australian capital cities. What typically defines these developments is the successful blending of where people live, work and play into one location, with a retail podium as the primary point of social interaction.
Among the most recent Dexus developments is the 32-level 480 Queen Street, Brisbane. Opening late last year within Brisbane’s Golden Triangle, the 480 Queen Street development encompasses restaurants, retail, on-site gym, child care centre, plus an in-built parkland space with formal and informal breakout zones for staff and visitors.
Exceptionally good spaces don’t just happen
Exceptionally good places aren’t just created by accident, according to Dexus’s Head of City Retail Developments Amanda Pieriboni.
“By looking at the DNA of great precincts it becomes self-evident that successful placemaking requires close collaboration between tenants, urban designers, developers, local government and a myriad of other stakeholders,” she says.
“It also requires a people-driven approach to urban development, architecture and landscaping to reflect the needs of the broader community.”
There are plenty of opportunities for the creation of more places around Australia, but developers need to have it at the forefront of thinking from the start.
Pieriboni says developments need to have elements of placemaking embedded from the outset. And while a lot goes into creating better places, she says it’s the underlying technology that ultimately allows people to make the most of the opportunities the building gives them to introduce more flexibility into their working lives.
“For global companies continuously engaged in attracting and retaining global talent, what the broader precinct and urban landscape offer by way of lifestyle and other amenities is a net-positive for their brand. “Having surrounding amenities for staff who come and go beyond typical working hours is an added bonus.”