The Bays Precincts, five principles for a global opportunity

According to Curtin University’s Professor Peter Newman UrbanGrowth’s Bays Precinct international summit this week has delivered on the optimism that has surrounded this event. It’s been a game changer for NSW, he says.

“The three days with Urban Growth have convinced me that the malaise that afflicted planning and development in Sydney for the past 15 years (and in which I worked for two years) has now lifted and the axis of creative planning seems to have shifted to our global city.” The Bays is an “opportunity not to be missed”.

Following are Professor Newman’s take on five key principles that have emerged from the summit:

Transit plan

If this development does not have transit at its base providing most of the accessibility it will have a much reduced yield and will never fulfill its potential as an extension of the CBD.

It’s not waving a green flag its a question of space and urban fabric. If you want a shopping centre style development then enable car access. IKEA will go there… If you want creative, productive, innovative knowledge economy jobs and young people then it must be transit based. This is a global phenomenon.

There is a problem with West Connex, it should never have been conceived as a link to the CBD, it’s needed for freight to get to the airport and Port of Botany from the western suburbs; it’s wrongly conceived for this area. To rethink that will free up huge amounts of capital. There needs to be a Bays and Region Transit Plan that can provide a very good light rail transit link but preferable a metro link with a loop going around the whole site and back to the CBD. The fact that this does not exist is a great opportunity for involving the public in ideas.

Value plan

A full value proposition for each of the scenarios for the project needs to be prepared using land value techniques that enable the intangibles of development to be measured. The economic value that is created by the combination of transit and density/jobs mix as well as the options for creating value to the community such as schools, promenades, parks and other social infrastructure, can all be measured from a Hedonic Model based on land values over time and over the full geography of the city.

We have done this in Perth and it is published in international journals in 2014. It is not yet commonplace but it works. The Value Plan can then be translated into the traditional bottom line as well as the soft/political stuff so that everyone can see what they are getting in the various options.

Fund New – the opportunity is to do the Bays as a value capture based project

Finance plan

Once the Value Plan is done it is possible to see what are the various sources of funding that can lead to a package of capital and on-going sources for financing the whole project – the land development and the transit system that would make it work. They should never be divided up into pieces until after this stage has been accomplished as a total package.

The opportunity of doing it as a value capture based project can be pursued if Treasury agrees to establish a fund that can syphon the increased revenues from the total value increases into a bag of money to use for financing. This can be passive value capture through TIF or active value capture through developing land as Hong Kong does. A step-wise process for doing this can be provided.  A goal should be to see if the whole project can be self-sufficient.

Make New – Build it green and they will come

Green plan

The need to enable the green credentials of the site is also not due to some potential credibility with the community and hence politicians. Green building is now mainstream for the market. If the development wants creative, productive, innovative knowledge economy jobs and young people then it must be green. The global evidence on this is now clear, if you don’t build it green they will not come.

Thus the project should include: a White Bay Renewable Energy Precinct that exports renewable power to the grid and renewable heating and cooling to the whole development. This would be based on photo voltaics, batteries which are now competitive with coal as well as using a Harbour Heat Exchanger for coolth and warmth that can be piped around the different precincts and even to surrounding suburbs (depending on its size). This similar to Marina Bay (in Singapore) and is already happening at Barangaroo.

Each precinct would also have detailed plans on how it can create renewables for the precinct and beyond. Each precinct will need a clear energy, water, waste plan as well as clear guidance on the quality of the green buildings and the desired outcomes for the precinct’s open space and walkability. A Foreshore Promenade will join it all together.

Governance and participation plan

The area will need to have a degree of autonomy in its planning and on-going management. The energy, water and waste system will work best if it’s a district utility. In terms of the integrated planning of the area, UrbanGrowth having control is a distinct advantage and should not be compromised; this will deliver the big picture presented in the value plan.

It will also need to have a more community-focused governance system that will enable full participation at every stage of the development.  Our research on what works suggests that deliberative democracy projects are infinitely better at producing results especially when they invite one third experts, one third local grass roots groups and one third citizens chosen at random to be “citizens for the day”.

The mix enables common good results to be found and yet local NIMBY people feel as though they helped and got something. Another role at this grass roots level is the ability of creatives to dramatise options for the sites through experiments, for example, Gap Filler in Christchurch which was funded and managed through the city council with assistance from CERA (the Urban Growth equivalent). A seminar/workshop from Ryan Reynolds could explain the 50 projects they did and their importance in creating hope for their devastated city as well as bridging gaps between levels of government. Real job opportunities have also been created. Ryan recently came to Perth for 10 days and was fantastic. Ryan is interviewed on our film Christchurch: Resilient City on You Tube. 

All of these matters can be followed up further with papers and networks.

2 replies on “Peter Newman and the Bays Precinct: five principles emerge from summit”

  1. The ‘green plan’ seems to be rooted in the paradigm of energy-water-waste and green buildings, while global best practice has developed substantially from there.

    While a renewable energy precinct of green buildings with harbour heat rejection is laudable, there is no mention of governance for sustainable outcomes (e.g. the Ecodistricts process), green infrastructure, the mechanism for delivering urban amenity and liveablity, the processes to enable district energy to implemented in a viable manner, integration of investment and sustainability in the finance and value plans and infrastructure sustainability…

    I hope to see some more detail emerge on how the ‘green’ ambitions are being embedded in the other key processes – value, finance, transit and governance.

  2. Governance should be listed first because if this is not set up well – that is using a process that is itself inclusive – then the success of this project will always be suspect. If Urban Growth is sincere in being democratic, it will get the governance plan and processes down and agreed before anything else. The governance process is important for all stakeholders, not just those who are usually left out (community).

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