Josh Fanning, publishing to celebrate homegrown talent and build local pride.

On Tim Horton, Josh Fanning on Adelaide & SA, office rent kick backs & flight to quality, biophilic design and Christine Lagarde

20 February 2014 — Strange things happen when you’re down and out. It’s often when new synapses build fastest and survival instinct kicks in. Call it the rush of creative adrenaline. Call it South Australia at election time. Or the Committee for Adelaide.

South Australia is heading to an election on 15 March, but what comes next?

According to one of our favourite agent provocateurs Tim Horton, a former Integrated Design Commissioner for Adelaide, it’s the most “beige” election ever, with both sides fearful of frightening an already fearful electorate.

“There’s a boiling, bubbling sea of concern from the electorate,” Horton says.

The existing government has recently come up with some good policies. “I can point to a whole lot of stuff around renewal, good transport and open space,” he says.

But it’s all too late.  “The election gun has gone off.”

There’s a lot to be worried about. SA is not just losing jobs – 25,000 in eight months according to opposition leader Steven Marshal – it’s losing its young population and gaining an ageing one.

There’s a sense of being at the tipping point, “not necessarily in the right direction”, the dry witted Horton says.

Big whack economic injections, such a $5 billion naval frigate or a stadium that creates 3500 jobs, seem great while they’re there but in reality Horton says they’re a “hidden valley of death” because of the yawning gap when they complete and the failure of the action to stimulate some other form of activity.

“There’s been unfair comparisons between Adelaide and Tasmania in terms of health and economic size but every chart I see shows that Tasmania is fighting us for last place.”

So what do you do?

Well first, ignore the pollies. Bypass the people who should be shaping the agenda and set your own. Then start a Committee for Adelaide.

Who made the first phone call is unclear. But it snared Horton and bunch of other private company entrepreneurs and individuals of influence.

One is 29-year-old Joshua Fanning, whose Hindley Street-based company Magazine Gallery achieved massive growth at the newsstand in more than 25 countries in 2012.

Here’s what Fanning says in the inaugural report from the committee:

“I’m 29 years old and I’m a publisher. I believe that the media is irrevocably attached to the fortunes and feelings of our society.

“I make magazines that seek to report the truth about Adelaide and our state. Myself and my team believe in journalism as a craft as well as a career and that the best stories are found in people who are busy getting on with the job of being relevant, not just here but around the world.

“Maybe it’s the story about Melanie and Dean Flintoft who sold everything to invest in their company, Australian Fashion Labels, which is now dressing Hollywood stars and receiving orders from Beyoncé. Or perhaps it’s speaking with Coopers about their warehousing issues as they expand their bottling operations to meet demand while the rest of the beer market shrinks around them. It could be as simple as catching up with Francis Wong over a pot of tea to hear about his efforts in turning tourists into investors in our state.”

Josh Fanning, on “sticking it to the man”

A blog on Fanning and his work says,

“Fanning attributes the mass exodus of Adelaide to a lack of recognition and validation by the local community. The young are lured interstate and overseas by the promise of bigger opportunity and like-minded communities. In a measure to stem the flow, he created this new, free publication [CityMag] ‘to show that something world class can come out of Adelaide’.

The magazine is a vehicle for celebrating homegrown talent, intended to build local pride and show others that they too can have innovative, successful futures here, if they only open their eyes to the possibility. Read more

Tim Horton

So cities are about people and their stories?

Horton thinks so. And he also thinks they’re about the people who come from a city but don’t live there any more. They too are your constituents, he says.

“Part of the strategy is harnessing the Diaspora the way Greece and China have, and Ireland has done successfully.

“American Jews and Israel have strong cultural bonds. That’s developed very consciously by recognising that people outside your border may still be your constituency.”

This could be a call to bring members of the diaspora home, with their new businesses, or to be a conduit for investment back to the home town.

These individuals, says Horton, “might have access to funds that the government can’t get its hands on.”

It’s exciting, creative, grounded in the thing that in the end yields all the value: us.

There are other ideas, crowd funding small amounts for particular projects, social impact bonds, and on it goes.

There’s also what should by now be classic urban thinking of “agglomeration economics”, as Horton puts it – the argument for density.

“Good things happen when things happen close,” he says.

The key is to act, together.

The markets say there’s a flight to quality. Go the Green!

What fun to pop into the investors side of the sustainability business fence from time to time, as we did last Friday in Sydney for the Property Council of Australia’s market outlook lunch.

On the panel were Stockland chief Mark Steinert, joint managing director of Charter Hall, David Southon and global president of Jones Lang LaSalle Colin Dyer.

Each proved they earned their salaries with the superior verbal jigs they performed around the more uncomfortable questions thrown their way.

Such as when would the market stop playing its games around the incentives on office rents that amount to a kickbacks often up to 30 per cent on the “face rent”?… Did investors realise this discrepancy and what would happen when the truth finally caught up with the fiction? (No-one calling for a Royal Commission on this little scandal, is there?)

Well, said the panel, it’s the kind of thing that, yes, pushes up the prices, but then everyone knows about it and it’s been going on for 10 years and more (so it’s institutionalised now?) and the valuers, well, they just factor all of this in.

Hmmm… has someone told the mums and dads?

The next uncomfortable topic was the amount of office supply emerging as the developers continue to bid for top dollar (effective and face) by dangling the best brightest new offices in front of tenants.

Colin Dyer with his global perspective said Sydney was facing an “unprecedented” amount of supply with the massive Baranagaroo site underway. Many other CBD locations were looking abundantly supplied, perhaps not quite to the same level.

How would the market react?

There would be a “flight to quality” the panel nodded in agreement.

If you’re a susty property type you will rub your hands with glee because that means a flight to green buildings, you’d think.

The experts didn’t say there would be a flight to the cheapest property and that tenants would race to save on rent. Rent is not a huge part of business costs in the end so for a few dollars more (or less after incentives) they can probably move into some nice spaces that won’t send all their staff to sleep after lunch, or give them tumors and blood disorders.

Natalie Roberts

Biophilic design, hard to measure but it feels good

Speaking of high quality offices, if your business is on the lookout for good property promise you will try your hardest to nip out to Ultimo on the edge of the CBD if you’re in Sydney, and have a peek at the sensational new offices for environmental campaigners WWF.

Operations and facilities manger Natalie Roberts, who stars in parts of our Tenants and Landlords Guide to Happiness books, has promised to do her best to be guide to the hopeful.

It’s the least she can do. After all Roberts et al. are now enjoying the most delightful space and it’s not costing the members a cent extra.

The space is in a converted warehouse that miraculously still sports enormous solid timber beams that reach forever and remind you straight up of old growth forests where the trees still grow tall and wide. Around the corner of the floor, which accommodates 70 WWF desks and another 30 or so for co-tenant Greening Australia, matching concrete columns have been fixed at their upper levels with bark sheets from paperbark trees.

As you come around the corner the first impression takes a little shot of breath away.

To compound what Roberts calls the biophilic fitout there are masses of indoor plants that we know now have powerful air cleaning attributes.

The furniture is fully recycled, rescued from on the way to the landfill. Desks are made from old floorboards mounted on recycled supports. Roberts notes the feeling on the skin creates a pleasant sensation to the touch instead of the smooth lifeless feeling of plastic surfaces.

Loads of plants

Around the kitchen area are foot stools and coffee tables constructed from cast offs by Reverse Garbage in Marrickville.

So what’s the impact on staff? Has it been measured?

“Well how do you measure someone who walks like this,” Roberts laughs, donning a bright sprightly face and snappy body action of someone walking by who’s happy and  excited. Right on cue, one of the staff members walks past unaware, sporting exactly that demeanour.

There are some things you can’t quite measure, yet. But you know.

Maybe the measure is that WWF embarks on way more campaigns for the environment and wins them all.

Watch out owners of second rate unhealthy, un-green buildings – there a mountain of office vacancies looming and beautiful examples of biophilic design snapping at your foyers.

Lone wolves

The women’s leadership breakfast we covered last week is one of those things you know has hit exactly the right note.

You know that by the way its chime keeps reverberating.

It was Sam Mostyn at the breakfast who pinged IMF chief Christine Lagarde as a woman she greatly admires and who other women should follow. On the weekend, right on cue, a major feature on Lagarde appeared in the weekend papers (no not the upcoming Saturday papers, the other one)

The article confirmed Mostyn doesn’t speak lightly.

Lagarde seems to epitomise the mix and match and blurry edges of sustainability and she’s a strong advocate of sustainability, letting this federal government know exactly how she stands on the issue.

Key to the breakthroughs needed to achieve sustainable change was the message that the boardroom with its homogeneity is tough for any sensitive intelligent soul to break through. Likewise the executive pack, social group and most political parties.

What’s needed is the outsider’s touch. Whether women or any minority. Call it ignorance as bliss.

Lagarde, the weekend article says is a born outsider, “a French teenager in America, then a European at Baker & McKenzie, … in government without being a graduate of ENA [a select French traning ground for pollies] or a civil servant. She’s generally been a woman among men, of course, and even now she is running the IMF as a lawyer among economists.”

So it’s the lone wolf that will save this planet.

Imagine them all getting together though? And conspiring to agree to be different, but shaping an agenda together for radical change?