Anchoring A New City
John Tabart explored the potential of anchor projects – whether an airport, hospital or university – to “disrupt” and drive new opportunities. Tabart oversaw the development of Australia’s two largest new city precincts – Barangaroo South and Docklands – and is now leading the $31 billion Australian Education City bid. He’s spent his career unpicking the ingredients of place – especially the waterfronts of Cape Town, Stockholm, Toronto and London –and said getting the mix right demands judicious planning, careful monitoring and a touch of magic.
Melbourne’s Docklands brought commercial and residential development together with art, sport and placemaking (“you have to engage the community from Day One,” Tabart said). At Barangaroo, transport connections with Wynyard were a key activator of place.
Education precincts are a “great activator or spaces”, Tabart said. Education buildings generate one person per 1-2 sqm of built space (compared with 10-12 sqm per office). The Australian Education City is a model for a new innovation district that, if all goes to plan, will have a campus of 55,000 people in 25 years, as well as tech companies, research centres, residential, commercial and retailers.
A champion of mixed use, Tabart said it was the “greatest satisfier of activation”. James A. Moore, Principal of Jacobs in the USA, agreed the mix of uses is “very complicated” and the “critical question” is how they are integrated. “You cannot have a monofunctional anchor,” Moore said. Every train station is a “huge opportunity” he added.
Lucy Turnbull AO, Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission argued that the right mix “can’t just be a stream of busy roads and business parks”. Getting it right is an “integrated and collaborative” process. Sam Sangster, Chief Executive Officer of the Western City & Aerotropolis Authority pointed to the 200,000 jobs that would be created around the $5.3 billion investment around the new airport.
Deborah Coakley, Executive General Manager of Funds Management for Dexus, explored the institutional investor’s perspective. Capital investment in office is “understood” while investment in hospital infrastructure “is new in our region and how they take a view on risk is something we need to work through”. She pointed to Adelaide’s growing medical precinct, which brings the universities and world-class research “all together in a line”. Capital partners on the hunt for their new project can see the potential, she said.