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Opinion: Brownfield is the new Greenfield

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Planning Lead
PLACE Design Group

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 With strong demand for infill residential housing and limited remaining greenfield development opportunities in Brisbane, developers must look to redevelop industrial areas.

These areas have the potential to deliver large scale integrated projects capable of providing both apartment living but also smaller house and land packages. Both Sydney and Melbourne have previously suffered through these growing pains and have come through the other side recognised as better and stronger cities.

The redevelopment of these industrial areas or brownfield sites in Brisbane, although an attractive option for developers, does contain a number of obstacles.
Benefits of Brownfield Developments
High-density living is not for everyone and there are limited opportunities to provide a house and land product as part of an integrated development in the existing infill areas.

Brownfield development provides this opportunity. Smaller freehold allotments containing innovative, architect-designed dwellings have had very strong take up in the Redlands and the Priority Development Areas.

These developments have proven to be an effective method of achieving a dwelling density to meet infill dwelling targets, while also catering to first home owners reluctant to live in a residential tower.

The Strategic Framework of the recently adopted Brisbane City Plan 2014 is a high-level planning instrument which seeks to retain these industrial areas for future industrial activities.

The Strategic Framework sits above all other components of the planning scheme, such as codes or neighbourhood plans, and where there is a conflict the Strategic Framework will prevail.

I acknowledge the important role of industrial land and its contribution to Brisbane’s economy. The intent to prevent the wide spread loss of industrial land is important to ensure that there is sufficient industrial land for the future generations.

However, it is our understanding that during the drafting of the City Plan 2014, Brisbane City Council did not undertake any new studies of the actual demand and availability for industrial land, nor whether the existing land was still suitable for the changing needs of the industry.

It is understood the latest study of industrial land supply and demand was undertaken for the inner city area approximately four years ago and no recent study had been undertaken for the remainder of the city.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is an abundance of available industrial land in pre-existing industrial areas. This is being driven by the strong growth in the pre-lease market by companies such as Goodman in areas like the Trade Coast.

This pre-lease market involves the redevelopment of a new industrial building in new areas, which are leased to a tenant prior to the development. This, combined with the small often fragmented nature of existing industrial areas, results in unsuitable buildings for refurbishment or rehousing new tenants. This new product offers an m2 rate comparable to 20-year-old industrial buildings. Clearly the existing stock cannot compete with the new product.
Valuable Infill Sites
We believe that we should learn from Sydney and Melbourne and recognise that these older industrial lands are valuable infill sites and not necessarily land worth protecting for the industrial sector.

Sure, we will continue to need industrial land and we will need these near our cities, but this land needs to be capable of being economically serviced, accessible and suited to changing sectors and demands of production.

We would argue, as would many of the holders of industrial land, that many of the older under performing industrial areas of our city are under performing because they can’t provide the access or serviced needed of the tenants.

We believe that Council and developers should be willing and able to explore ways to reinvent and repurpose older industrial areas. The key is to understand the challenges and potential conflicts between existing and ongoing industrial uses and potential new residential occupants.

Assuming these can be solved, why should Brisbane be stuck with development limited to smaller piecemeal sites in key centres? Larger consolidated industrial holdings that no longer represent the most attractive or best practice industrial land should at least be in the mix for redevelopment, as opposed to the current BCC approach of taking them off the table altogether, which we believe is short sighted.

ANGUS GREEN

Planning Lead
PLACE Design Group

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Article originally posted at: https://https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/opinion-brownfield-is-the-new-greenfield