Property Australia

Shared visions needed to create thriving cities


The top city centres across the world have distinct personalities that draw individuals to make a home, develop a life, cooperate, and connect.

Paris is romantic, New York never sleeps, and Rome is the eternal city. 

They are diversified locations that attract and maintain talent while also providing tourists and inhabitants with distinct experiences. They are the engines of economic growth and opportunity.

To create these thriving cities, a shared vision needs to be at the centre, according to a recent report prepared by Urbis for The Property Council Western Australia. 

Creating Thriving Cities: A Shared Vision calls on all levels of government to align the various plans for the Perth CBD into a master plan, centralising and securing a shared vision for the future of Perth.

Kate Meyrick, Director at Urbis, told a crowd at the launch event for the paper that in creating great cities, a clear and well-defined vision is needed.

“A vision that's powerful enough to drive transformational change, but equally, a vision that's plausible enough to be believable,” she said. 

Meyrick used her recent experience in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh which is undergoing enormous change. 

There are many interweaving projects in Riyadh all under the Saudi Vision 2030 program, a sweep of reforms and city shaping initiatives adopted by the Saudi government. 

Meyrick said she was sceptical at first, right until she landed. 

“I realised that everybody I spoke to, over 120 young people up to the ages of 20 to 30, men and women, every bureaucrat, everyone from industry, every Australian running a project over there, and there's quite a few of them, was right behind this vision,” she said.

“It had the most incredible energy and momentum; you couldn't help but be excited. All the money they're spending on these bigger and better projects, so enormous, you cannot even imagine the scale of them. They are all summing up towards the execution of this vision.

“They don't want to be a mini-Dubai, they don't want to be another London, they want to be their own city, their own contemporary interpretation of their story.”

Meyrick said a thriving city centre matters more than ever, but not every city is going to succeed equally. 

She said the citizens and decision makers of a city need to understand what they want to protect and what value they want to create.

“The central part of the city is absolutely fundamental to the way that our identity is portrayed to the rest of the world, for the rest of our nation, and to subsequent generations and to ourselves,” she said.

“If the centre of our cities is dead, what does that say about the kind of community and society that we live in?

“We need to curate dense clusters of cultural and recreational assets in cities to make them attractive to their own residents and visitors to come here. This happens most effectively in the city centre, the easiest place to reach and the easiest place to move around.

“We need to make sure that the rhythm and the vibe of this city centre location is so activated, so alluring, so appealing, so magnetic, that the talent that we're having to work so hard to attract and retain, really wants to be here, because even if they live in the suburbs, if they live in the bush, they still come to the city.”

While pointing out Riyadh as an example, Meyrick noted every city is on its own journey and needs its own story. She noted that the jobs of those in shaping our cities is not to replicate, but to originate. 

“We cannot take the recipe of another city and believe that we could apply it to our own,” she said. 

“We have to understand where we are trying to go, what our vision is, what our needs are, what culture we wish to represent, what kind of city we want to be regarded as by other people, and what kind of city we actually want to live in.”

In the Perth context, The Brisbane City Centre Master Plan was mentioned in the report as a possible example for improved government collaboration and coordination. It suggested that the City of Perth Committee take the lead in producing the master plan.

Furthermore, the report reaffirms the importance of a genuine focus on residential intensification, which was previously noted in the Property Council's 2020 research Project 90K. It also emphasises the importance of a roadmap that includes vital facilities such as elementary schools, a public high school, and supermarkets in order to stimulate demand for apartments in the city.