By David Hall, COO Of MAB Corporation
The rapid growth of our nation’s population and the scale of our major cities is leading to congested roads and longer commutes, according to the Grattan Institute’s City Limits report.
Whilst residential development construction is on the rise, without the supporting amenities and employment opportunities, further housing will only exasperate these issues.
For developers and our country’s planners, the population boom presents the opportunity to establish integrated communities that bring an end to the traffic jams and tiring commutes. These hubs span residential, commercial and retail precincts, creating a self-sufficient community.
When we conceptualised the idea of our first mixed-use development, University Hill in Bundoora, Melbourne, our vision was to create a place where people could work, live, socialise and rest in the one space. And we drew on this experience when planning a 770 hectare mixed-use community, Merrifield in Mickleham, set to be the largest in Victoria.
But what does it take to plan and execute such a large scale project?
Create employment opportunities
A prosperous, sustainable mixed-use community hinges on creating jobs close to where people live. It is also important to provide a greater diversity of jobs accessible to people living in growth areas. This is because businesses and residents are drawn to regions which offer economic prospects – what could be considered as job clusters.
For example, forecasts reveal that Merrifield will accommodate 25,000 jobs with 11,000 of these jobs in the Merrifield Business Park. It will also contribute up to 26 percent of future employment growth for the City of Hume. Future residents will be drawn to Merrifield’s residential precinct as they can now work close to home.
For employers, it means a wider pool of potential employees, all who live a five-minute drive from work. In fact, one of Australia’s leading paint manufacturers Dulux will bring a new paint manufacturing facility to Merrifield, creating 65 direct jobs and close to 300 construction jobs in Melbourne’s north.
Select the right location
As with any development, residential or commercial, finding the right location is invaluable to the project. When scoping mixed-use sites, it’s important to consider the needs and desires of both future residents and businesses looking to move there.
For businesses, placement near key transport links is attractive as they can service markets efficiently and effectively. As transport costs increase and Australia’s east coast population grows, sites which provide accessible transport and logistics routes to the eastern seaboard will be high in demand.
For instance, Merrifield Business Park is located near Victoria’s major transport hubs with access to the Hume Freeway, Melbourne Airport, the Port of Melbourne and local and interstate railway lines enabling companies to easily access our eastern seaboard, west coast and international markets. The strategic positioning was a driving factor behind Dulux’s decision to construct its new facility in Merrifield.
For residents – and businesses for that matter – knowing there is growth potential in the area is also critical. Essentially, an area earmarked for growth signals to businesses and residents that they will be part of a thriving community and economy.
Build amenities for occupants
People moving into new communities expect to have access to services that are available in the established parts of our cities. This includes cafes, restaurants and shops – but more importantly plans for schools, neighbourhood parks and health facilities which can provide a comfortable, accessible lifestyle to residents. Our research shows that access to employment precincts also plays a critical part in people’s choice in where to live.
These facilities are important for businesses too. Businesses willing to retain quality staff are looking for locations that have access to facilities including retail, childcare and restaurants.
Creating a mixed-use community is no easy feat – and these are just some of the factors developers and urban planners need to consider. What’s for certain is that with population growth, it’s essential that we focus on creating sustainable communities within our large metropolitan cities, particularly in growth areas.
David Hall is Chief Operating Officer of MAB Corporation (MAB) a privately owned property development company that has been successfully operating since 1995. Established and owned by fifth generation Melbourne property identities, Michael and Andrew Buxton, MAB has activities in residential, retail, commercial and business park developments, as well as an investments management business. Today, MAB in partnership with Gibson Property Corporation launched the business park in Merrifield, the largest master planned urban development in Victoria, offering over 5000 homes, a 330 hectare business park, city centre and wetlands, once complete.