MGS Architects director Robert McGauran

25 June 2013 — CONFERENCE: Co-location of companies and organisations around centres of knowledge offer important synergies, MGS Architects director Robert McGauran told the Making Cities Liveable Conference last week, but barriers need to be overcome.

Mr McGauran used Clayton in the south-east of Melbourne as an example of co-location, with it home not only to Monash University but also Monash Medical Centre, CSIRO and Australian Synchrotron. And a $450 million mixed-use project, the Nova Centre, featuring a hotel, retail and residential apartments is being built opposite Monash University.

The 6th Making Cities Liveable Conference was held at the St Kilda Novotel.

MGS urban planner Evan Granger said it was time for more investment in knowledge cities.

“It’s not just about retail as the only activity hub that you can build around,” he said.

“We need to start building around knowledge. But we need a different way to engage.”

He said educational institutions needed to learn how to communicate their offerings better.

Mr Granger said universities needed to attract the best and brightest staff and students and vibrant campuses were key to doing that.

Eighty per cent of students chose a university within 15 minutes of walking onto campus, sometimes before even entering a building, he said.

“Victorian universities need to reach out to improve accessibility and engage with the community,” he said.

Evan Granger

Mr Granger said the Victorian Government was helping with emerging clusters of innovation including at Clayton, Parkville, Tullamarine Airport and La Trobe.

There was also a visual and performing arts cluster happening around Southbank, he said.

“We often find that knowledge links are interconnected,” he said. “And we are now getting federal buy-in of those innovation clusters.”

“Benefits for local government include high-quality tech facilities, employment opportunities, places of celebration, land for shared facilities, partnership opportunities and a stimulation of the local economy.”

But Mr Granger said there were also a lot of barriers including local government policy not being supportive because universities were generally federally funded, the state government tending to focus more on retail development and universities, in the past, being seen as non-inclusive citadels.

Mr McGauran said one example of a lack of sharing facilities was a new swimming complex on “expensive public land” that had been developed by the City of Clayton.

This was despite a pool complex at Monash University already being well-used by the public, he said.

Mr McGauran said a new approach was needed to create productive and liveable knowledge cities.

“We need councils to develop land-use strategies,” he said.

“We need affordable housing and council needs to support higher density, diverse and affordable housing within walking distance.

“Knowledge workers and students are the most likely to ride or walk to work – so you have the low-hanging fruit right there.”