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Turning the tide in the badlands

Asked once why I disliked fringe Melbourne housing estates so vehemently I replied those residing there were 'existing without living'. That is of course not the fault of those residents as for one reason or another (generally socioeconomic), they have found themselves at Melbourne's periphery.

Arcing from Tarneit to Cranbourne, far too many pathetically designed new housing estates have been created with little regard to good design and amenity - and no a lake doesn't count! The reprehensible aspect to all this is the lack of vital services and transport options that have not accompanied the urban sprawl, ensuring these peripheral suburbs rely too heavily upon vehicles in order to travel distance for essential services; I'm not referring to McDonalds either.

No services and no hope? Image courtesy The Age

Thankfully there are signs that this trend of 'suburban destruction' is coming to an end as developers recognise that truly vibrant communities need to offer much more than shiny street lights and paved roads. Last year I wrote of Lyons Capital's plan to implement hundreds of apartments around their Wyndham Harbour development beyond Werribee, including multiple residential towers of up to ten levels.

Merrifield's envisaged City Centre. Image courtesy MAB

In addition new locales such as Merrifield 30 kilmetres north of the CBD have included City Centres in their master planned community, with towers of up to 20 levels expected. In all this the dual approach of increased density around retail/transport/essential services plus having architects of note design town centres and associated services may just prove to be the solution.

And so it came to be recently that St Germain Village was announced as a new master planned community within City of Casey - although this development would be like no other. At the heart of the $270 million development is an employment catalyst in the shape of a state of the art medical precinct.

Designed by ClarkeHopkinsClarke, the St Germain Village medical hub will include therapeutic suites for heart specialists, psychologists, plastic and general surgeons and pediatric consultants. With a healthy amount of retail and commercial offerings also envisaged, 1500 dwellings will surround the medical hub and town centre, providing the development with a distinct sense of place.

ClarkeHopkinsClarke urban designer and partner Dean Landy highlights some of the objectives under which include: addressing the need for local and diverse employment options, developing strategies to engender greater social inclusion, initiatives and incentives to attract business and investment and early delivery of diversified housing options.

The majority of locals now travel outside their municipality to work but injecting a variety of health services supports a diverse and vibrant community [...] to ensure the community remains interconnected and a healthy walkable place is created.

Dean Landy, ClarkeHopkinsClarke

Spot on!

The St Germain checklist and what makes master planned communities work

What St Germain Village includes that many other greenfield/master planned communities don't:

  • A reputable architect creating a cohesive town/village centre.
  • An employment driver at the heart of the development - between 3450 and 3590 new jobs created.
  • Higher density living options around village square.
  • Mixed use facilitators: medical and retail in this case.
  • Local council input into the design process​.

The only element absent is a public transport link but in due course it's a fair assumption that at the very least bus services will extend to St Germain Village from other City of Casey hubs such as Narre Warren.

St Germain's medium density component. Image courtesy CHC

As a Metropolitan Planning Authority Demonstration Project, St Germain Village will be a test case and hopefully a benchmark for future master planned developments to follow. All going as envisaged St Germain Village's blueprint will be replicated elsewhere in future greater Melbourne greenfield site developments.

Without being melodramatic the significance of St Germain Village and other developments such as Merrifield cannot be passed over; these projects are critical in righting the many wrongs perpetrated throughout Melbourne's existing peripheral suburbs. Put simply the livability or quality of life for a substantial slice of Melbourne's future population may just depend upon it.

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Discussion (2 comments)

Alastair Taylor's picture

The only element absent is a public transport link but in due course it's a fair assumption that at the very least bus services will extend to St Germain Village from other City of Casey hubs such as Narre Warren.

This estate is in a blackhole of the bus network out there.

Well, actually, you wouldn't call it a network.

Riccardo's picture

Mega fail. Brisbane has just finished the Springfield railway to a master planned development, and is underway with the Moreton Bay railway also including a number of master planned sites.

Sydney of course has just built the SWRL ahead of the pack with corridors gazetted to Oran Park and the new airport. The whole NWRL and its vast billions will provide top of the range transport to huge numbers of people.

Perth has just extended to Butler and has given the go ahead to the airport line with fast redevelopment potential.

Melbourne is just peddling dreams.

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