Developer contributions are the traditional approach to delivering community facilities in greenfield developments but they often focus on built form outcomes, rather than community experience and usage.
The principles of Placemaking offer a key approach to delivering social infrastructure, linking investment and delivery with key community preferences, aspirations and utilisation.
How a Placemaking approach delivers better outcomes
When developers and planners encourage as much community involvement as possible, common problems like under-utilised parks, poorly used community spaces, and isolated, underperforming development projects can be avoided.
Community input is essential to the Placemaking process, but so is an understanding of a particular place and of the ways that great places encourage successful social networks and initiatives. Early engagement with the existing community and off the plan buyers can provide this input. We partnered with developers, local Council and the local community at Stockland’s East Leppington development to deliver open space and community facilities for new and existing residents in the area. This approach involved focus groups and interviews with diverse local residents to respond to the recreational needs of the community. From this, options for open spaces and community facilities were presented which directly reflected the needs and aspirations of residents.
Community cohesion and return on investment benefit developers
For developers, Placemaking provides a model for large scale residential areas with a community focus, delivering both homes and facilities with a framework to encourage ongoing community cohesion.
As an example, we are proposing a community development and monitoring framework for a new community in an identified growth area in outer suburban Sydney, which will engage with community stakeholders to develop a program of activities to build community cohesion through the use of open spaces and community facilities.
Financially, this approach utilises upfront investment in infrastructure and tailors the use of public spaces to community needs, targeting additional investment in the right areas. Engaging the community from the beginning provides an opportunity for early involvement and ownership of the process. To provide infrastructure successfully, developers and councils may supplement the use of universal benchmarks in community facilities and open space planning, with research into direct community preferences and participation patterns.
A placemaking approach offers this missing component by engaging with people early, to identify and deliver social infrastructure which responds to needs aspirations. The benefits of this approach include savings in time, cost, and builds links between existing and surrounding communities, with new residents.
This article first appeared in the Urbis Think Tank. Urbis is an interdisciplinary consulting firm offering services in planning, design, property, social planning, economics and research. Working with clients on integrated or standalone assignments, Urbis provides the social research, analysis and advice upon which major social, commercial and environmental decisions are made. With over 300 staff Urbis is uniquely positioned to handle projects from the simplest to the most complex.