Vancouver – how to do high quality high-rise

Of all the cities I’ve visited on this trip, Vancouver was surprisingly the least relevant to Fremantle and its future development. That didn’t make it a waste of time by any means, however, as it was probably the most relevant to planning in broader Perth. Vancouver is a world leader in high density, transit orientated development that provides high amenity. Over the past decade over 1000 residential apartment towers have gone up across the whole city housing tens of thousands of people in a variety of apartments from low income to high luxury and everything in between. (I stayed in one with a local professor and was very impressed by the quality and liveability).

They’ve linked many of these high-rise apartments with a sky train and electric trolley buses to make a far less automobile dependent city and one that is consistently rated in the top three liveable cities in the world. Perth-wide planning could learn a lot from Vancouver’s approach. High rise doesn’t have to be a dirty word if done in the right place well.

East End special blog

Today the people of Fremantle are going to be engaging on how to make the East End scheme amendment the best it can be.

I’ve spent the last few days in Portland in the NW of the USA as part of my sustainable cities tour. Portland is doing many things very well and is very inspiring. I also got to speak to their Metro council abou the inspiring things Fremantle is doing.

Today I want to focus on the Pearl District which is very much Portland’s East End project except they transformed it over the last 5-7 years and it works!

So I hope you enjoy these short videos that talk about what makes the Pearl District recognised globally a fine example of urban regeneration and how the lessons  learnt can be applied to the  East End project.

The first video is about how greening new developments from rooves to walls and streets can make even dull modern architecture look a whole better

The next videos talks about the importance of activation, transit, mix of uses, quality public spaces and affordable housing.

 I hope you are as inspired as I was, Brad

The Big Apple is on a “road diet”


One of my favourite parts about NYC was experiencing the new public spaces created through what has become known as “road diets” – taking back lanes and sometimes whole roads for pedestrians, cyclists and for people to play. From Times Square to Broadway to 8th Ave the space for cars has been radically shrinking. What were lanes of traffic are now large potted plants, coloured asphalt , places for people to sit and ephemeral public art. Where there was once streams of yellow taxis and cars choking the roads there are now streams of people riding bikes, reading newspapers, drinking coffee and even doing hula-hoop lessons.

When this radical city wide road diet was proposed there was plenty of opposition to it. Nay-sayers said it would cause traffic congestion and chaos and that local businesses would suffer. A year on the evidence is that that traffic was no worse than it was and NYC businesses are doing better than most in the USA economically.

While the feared negatives have not materialised the positives are clear. The doubling of the bike network since 2006 to over 200 lanes has resulted in more than 12,500 daily commuter cyclists into the Manhattan Central Business District – a massive 35 percent increase. The lanes have also reduced bicycle accidents and made streets safer for pedestrians to cross the street.

The “road diets” have also created new spaces for community to flourish in for people to meet, read, play and dance. Who would have thought a lane or two of traffic could do so much once cars were taken out of the equation.

The transformation of Bryant Park NYC

Many of you would be aware that a key project that Council is working on at present is ways to make Kings Square a safe and enjoyable place so that people want to spend time there rather than just hurry through or just avoid it altogether. The plan is to get more people to actively use the space more often. By activating the space with great activities such as chess games, table tennis, and basketball as well as free Wi-Fi and lots of other innovative attractors we believe that more people will use the Square making it a safer, more inviting place.

I have just had the pleasure of experiencing a great example of how this reactivation of a central city space can be done really well.

Bryant Park is in central Manhattan.  In the 1980s it was known as a drug dealers hang out and a place to avoid. Now it’s the vibrant home of table tennis matches, chess and bocce tournaments and even an outdoor library nestled amongst the thousands of sunbakers and office workers having lunch.  This radical transformation was though a clear policy of the local government working with the local community to bring the community pack into its squares and parks. It was truly inspiring and I am confident we can harness a similar energy in Fremantle.