Councils must encourage a mix of commercial and residential to keep suburbs vibrant

A recent report by the Australian government, State of Australian Cities 2011, identifies the problems being faced by federal and state governments and also councils, where they now need to completely rethink their long-term masterplans. Australia’s population has grown by 3 million in the past decade, yet productivity growth has slowed and then declined since 1998.

Working in Sydney’s CBD was a must 20 years ago, however today councils need to rezone (suitable) areas into medium commercial zones. If you bring the businesses to the area all the other businesses feed off this nine-to-five injection of people. We are already seeing today a huge closure rate of small businesses – retail, thanks to the internet, is dying on the vine. Councils need to place businesses and people above these retail outlets to inject new life to what are becoming retail ghost suburbs.

North Sydney Council has been most proactive, as over the past 10 years North Sydney has been vibrant by day yet dormant at night. To counteract this approximately half a dozen new apartment developments have recently been approved. As a result North Sydney will flourish as it is blending commercial developments with the latest state-of-the-art high- and medium-residential buildings.

On Sydney’s lower north shore the buzz suburb is definitely Neutral Bay, where it is busy by day and even busier at night. The suburb is in harmony with commercial buildings and residential apartment developments. I would think that it would be one of the few suburbs in Australia that boasts two Woolworths stores and a Coles store. On the other hand Mosman does not have a Woolworths or a Coles store.  Some may argue that this is a good thing, although I would argue that there is anecdotal evidence that these stores strengthen the surrounding businesses, as they put “backsides on seats”.

Mosman Council recently announced the Spit Junction masterplan – Spit Junction is Mosman’s primary business centre located around the intersection of busy Spit and Military roads. The Spit Junction  masterplan is an opportunity to revitalise Spit Junction and make it more amenable to the community. The project involves the:

  • Preparation of a masterplan for Spit Junction; and
  • Feasibility study for the Mosman Civic Centre sites.

I would personally like to see all the properties along Spit Road rezoned to accommodate medium commercial with ground floor retail and restaurant outlets to cater for the nine-to-five workers and at night the local residents would enjoy this new lifestyle experience. Another point is that such developments would allow businesses to relocate back to the suburb, which is exactly where they should be headed. Traffic congestion keeps getting worse and fuel costs keep rising with workers spending less time at home due to traffic congestion.

Over the next 20 years or so we can expect to see councils working to embrace our lifestyle changes where they will seek to balance their communities with a successful blending of all these components. If they don’t their retail strips will look like nothing more than pop-up temporary retail outlets.

With the Spit Junction masterplan Mosman Council design a mix of commercial, residential and retail that blends together with consistent design and planning controls.

It does not matter which suburb you reside in – what may have been the go 20 or 30 years ago is not the way society is headed in the 21st century.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the suburbs for over twenty five years, and I could never again return the Sydney CBD. With councils now looking at accommodating the nine-to-five markets, they are actually revitalising their communities.

There is a strong possibility that once you could live in a community but could not work in it – times are changing, and for all the right reasons.

Keeping up with the times has always been the challenge.

Robert Simeon is a director of Richardson  Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. He has also been writing real-estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000. The RWM real estate model has sold in excess of $1 billion in database sales globally.

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

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