Perth, the largest city on the west coast of Australia, is undergoing immense change as investment from the mining boom floods through the economy. Whilst mining capital investment is slowing, investment in new urban projects remains strong. The Government, is pushing ahead with massive capital projects that will transform the city.
City Square is yet another feature in Perth’s regeneration. Once a city known as “dullsville”, Perth has shrugged off this tag with a host of new projects and events, supported by a new entrepreneurial spirit that is fostering an explosion of small bar openings, great restaurants and public spaces.
One such project is Elizabeth Quay; affectionately known by locals as Betty’s Jetty, it will provide a sparkling new face to the city, reconnecting it back to the Swan River. For too long a massively underused expanse of reclaimed land, Elizabeth Quay will continue the worldwide trend of waterfront engagement with bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels, offices and apartments. Think Baltimore Waterfront, Melbourne Southbank or Sydney’s Darling Harbour, but with a uniquely West Australian twist.
Another example is Waterbank, a precinct within the East Perth regeneration project, where bold architecture and a high quality public realm with extensive parks and a river inlet will provide a new eastern gateway. This mixed-use precinct, with a focus on residential development, will create new spaces for public engagement and exchange. It will create a powerful new impression of the city for visitors newly arrived in Perth.
The latest project announcement involves Perth City Link. A huge project to move the railway underground between the central city and Northbridge, Perth’s entertainment district. City Square will be the centrepiece of the area’s regeneration – a 1.1 hectare public space linking to the main train station and future bus station. Future light rail investment is also touted for City Square.
Western Australia’s Premier, Colin Barnett announced development of the square with the following statements. “The square will include The Horseshoe Market place, an urban rooftop garden, water features, kiosks, retail spaces, landscaped terraced walkways, play spaces and striking Aboriginal art.” Barnett says. (Source: Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority)
The new City Square will be 25 percent larger than Melbourne’s famous Federation Square . This size poses questions: is it too large, will people be attracted to it, will it work as well with 20 people as it does with 20,000? These questions will only be answered with time. However activation seems to be a focus: it will contain markets, laneway spaces, an extensive urban garden with an Australian naturescape and extensive ‘celebration spaces’ where large civic functions and public events can take place.
Key to City Square’s success will be the approach to activation and place making. Here at TC we appreciate good place making strategies, but recognise for City Square, an appropriate governance framework and events management plan will need to be established to successfully foster public life. The Government will need to learn from their Melbourne counterparts, where Federation Square is supported by an extensive management, marketing and events budget. City Square will be the framework but the people of Perth and the MRA will need to provide ‘meat on the bones’.
Here’s hoping for its success.
Article by: Scott Davies