Density Done Right

Recently you may have heard that 60% of Sydneysiders said their city was full —no more new development please. A similar sentiment holds for many Australian cities where skyrocketing house prices and congestion are on everyone’s mind. But growth of our cities is inevitable, and new development, if it’s done right, will actually help solve problems and improve everyone’s lives. 

Love it or hate it, our cities are always changing. Just like most of us, a skyline never sits still for too long. Towers pop up, buildings come down, whole mini-suburbs are created to accommodate all us crazy people. The key is density done right.  What does that mean?  It means smarter cities where transport is integrated into how we build and urban sprawl is countered by urban abundance, shops, cafes, green space that localises life, encouraging thriving micro-communities.

 

Interview with our resident planning expert – Josh Brydges

 

Should people fight the development of our cities?

I think people should fight bad development. That said, a lot people’s immediate response is that all development is bad development, which explains why there’s so much opposition. But development itself isn’t bad almost all the buildings that we live and work in were built by developers, and when it’s done right, a new building in a community can be a force for positive change, adding amenities for existing residents, and new residents or employees that will support local businesses. The issue is when development happens that doesn’t necessarily have consultation with the community, development that doesn’t give/get feedback and doesn’t provide more positive amenity to the community than there was to start with. It’s that need to provide a new positive benefit that results in a lot of developers these days including GoGet into their buildings, because on top of being a new form of sustainable transport that can lessen the impact of a new building on our roads, GoGet cars are open to the wider community so even non-residents can get access to a new local transport service.
 
Overall, people should be a bit more open-minded to new developments because it’s the force that can bring new services, cafes and shops to their community. We can sometimes forget that to have new, vibrant and viable shops and businesses in an area, there needs to be development that provides the level of demand that makes those things feasible in the first place. It’s the same with carshare, there wouldn’t be carshare in certain areas without a certain level of density to support it. People often love to go to vibrant exciting suburbs for coffee, to shop, or just to hang out and wish that their suburb could have some of those same features, but to get there requires a bit of change, a bit of development, not only to house those features, but to make sure there are enough customers to keep the lights on.
 
So ultimately development can enhance and change a community for the better, but it’s up to us as residents to think through what we’re getting with any new development, how it will impact a certain area, and what sort of area it will become, and then work together with our neighbours, our councils, and yes, eve the developers to ensure that future development supports that vision. 

What is density done right?

Density done right is development that adapts to the local community and takes into account its current state.  It shouldn’t overpower the neighbourhood, but support the neighbourhood’s own unique flavour. It should be planned well, to take advantage of existing and future infrastructure, and it should work to reduce our impact on the environment.  Again, it should provide amenity to the community, new shops, new opportunities, new transport options, new green space, new sidewalks. It should provide things that benefit day-to-day living. And, obviously, it shouldn’t flood the area with cars or strain the area in other ways. It should make our communities more sustainable and more livable.

How do we make the change of our cities work for us?

Get involved.  I’m an urban and transport planning nerd so I’m biased and I care a lot more than the average person about this, and have probably bored the other people at GoGet to no end with minutia and ‘interesting facts’ about planning, but if you take some time to familiarise yourself with local planning rules and what that will mean for your community, you’ll be in much better shape when it comes to helping shape your community or choose the community you want to live in. We should all try to learn a little more. Not many people realise how cities develop —it’s all either ignored or a mystery until they are blindsided by something in their backyard they really don’t like, and don’t quite know what they can do. It’s funny that 80% of Australia live’s in cities and yet most of us don’t really know much about what makes them tick. But there has never been more resources available to learn about cities. You don’t have to agree with everything but it’s important to have the conversation, which is why we’re involving ourselves in this debate.

A few good websites, videos, and podcasts to act as a jumping off point.
 

Websites

CityLab

The Fifth Estate

Videos

Jeff Speck: The walkable city

Vox Media also has a bunch of great short videos about urban issues and innovations like – Superblocks: How Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars  – and – The high cost of free parking.

Podcasts

Or if Podcasts are more your bag check out this great one on the godmother of Urban Planning Jane Jacobs, and for a more Australian focus our friends at AECOM and the Committee for Sydney both have great podcasts specifically about Australian Cities.

I promise you, it won’t be as boring as you fear, and you’ll probably start noticing new aspects of your community when you’re out walking, driving or cycling around.

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