Connected activities

Precincts come alive when they are active. We need to design and develop precincts in a way that energises and incentivises human activity and allows people to connect in a diverse variety of ways.


Anchor institutions and tenants

We believe that a precinct needs a key economic driver in order to grow and thrive. Large precincts with high productivity and economic output are centred on well-established institutions or industries, referred to as anchors. These anchors act as catalysers for the growth and development of the precinct, providing significant economic output and access to jobs and services for the community in and around them.

In smaller precincts, there may not be an obvious anchor, so we need to consider what might activate the precinct. For example, large retail can play a significant role in defining and driving precincts, influential commercial tenants might drive the influx of other businesses, or cultural facilities could attract residents and tourists.

In addition to having a clearly identified economic driver, successful precincts also provide infrastructure and housing to support those living and working in these anchor institutions, helping to deliver on the agreed objectives and success indicators for the overall precinct.

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Focal points

Precincts not only need to provide functionality but must also stand as identifiable urban centres. The ‘branding’ of a precinct can be as important as the physical assets. What attracts people to a precinct? What do they identify with the precinct? Is the precinct a destination? Is the precinct legible?

Focal points can be created by iconic structures or an attractive offering such as retail or open space, as well as stand-out functional features such as transit hubs. For example, Circular Quay boasts the Opera House, the most iconic structure in Australia; Sydney’s Surry Hills provides the largest rail network at Central Station; Brisbane’s South Bank showcases the arts with the cluster of GOMA, Queensland Art Gallery, QPAC, the State Library and the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre; Elizabeth Quay enjoys a vast multi-purpose waterfront park. These focal points are an important part of each precinct’s identity and success.

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Differentiated industries

A precinct needs to consider the existing industry mix and the potential for economic growth and productivity. How well the key industries provide for the precinct and interact with the rest of the precinct is essential. Where a particular industry has the potential to provide a strong anchor, we need to consider how it can be enhanced in the strategic phases of precinct development, considering complementary industries and supply chain,to further enhance the anchor industry's productivity.

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Cambridge innovation district

Cambridge’s iconic innovation district centres on the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT). While the campus already occupied a
significant geographical area, it sought to partner with the commercial
sector and private institutions to develop and nurture innovation and
collaboration – 80 organisations have formed the Kendall Square
Association to share the vision and planning for the area.

The Cambridge Innovation Center provides shared spaces for startups
and venture capital firms, promoting collaborative working.
Additionally, the award-winning “@Kendall Square” development
offers a mixed use “live, work, play” community with recreation,
markets, offices, labs, residential and retail spaces.

The involvement, presence and collaboration of MIT has led to the
growth of a number of industries within Cambridge, as well as led
to the provision of residential housing. The precinct has encouraged
entrepreneurs and start-ups through the Cambridge Innovation
Center, while also attracting large tech companies including Google,
Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.

With the growing presence of students, graduates, academics and
high-profile companies, residential accommodation has become a
necessity, allowing for these individuals to live, work and study within
this district. Since 2005, 1000 new residential housing units have been
built, with retail and food outlets to support this population.

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The activation of precincts relies on a number of factors including vibrant industries, land uses, temporal accessibility, and the harnessing of technology.

Mix of uses

When it comes to the use of spaces, successful precincts consider both horizontal and vertical integration. Instead of just focusing on how street frontages are activated at the ground level, we need to think about the mix of uses vertically through the built form and how they might assist in activating each other. How can we, for example, harness the spaces on rooftops which are often under-utilised? How can we activate community interaction by mixing residential units with retail, commercial and entertainment? With the inevitable densification of our cities, the use of vertical elements is vital.

However, we do need to consider the challenges with mixed-use areas, particularly the interaction of residential and non-residential uses. We want active and vibrant precincts, but how do we ensure residents’ amenity and privacy are protected?

A mix of uses further supports the potential for a 24-hour city, providing a richness of experience for the community and significant economic growth.

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Digital connections

Digital connection in our cities is now an unquestionable commodity, and the successful activation of precincts will increasingly depend on integrating technology and harnessing of its benefits. Cities that are technologically enabled can better connect their citizens with each other, provide connections to education, services and resources that may be otherwise unattainable and, in some cases, can reduce costs for consumers.

But even though we are progressively reliant on technology to assist us in how we move through precincts, we still have a long way to go. ‘Smart’ is a word increasingly applied to cities around the world that are leveraging technology solutions to solve urban problems. ‘Smart’ has also become ubiquitous with the proliferation of devices connected to the internet (IoT). However being ‘smart’ is not just about products, it is about people, and how digital solutions can enhance the lives of those in our cities. While we need to ensure that the end-user is always top of mind, we also need to embrace experimentation with technology and seek ways to build on systems and infrastructure we already have in place.

Local Councils in Australia are beginning to consider how to utilise smart systems in existing street infrastructure, such as lighting, to assist in safety, wayfinding and how we use spaces. But to take this further, cities around the world are beginning to incorporate the ability to provide data on how we use the street, namely through sensors. This requires no new infrastructure but instead builds on existing systems. The collection and analysis of data can then inform how the street might be improved, developed or enhanced.

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The 24-hour economy

With a growing Millennial population in our cities and technology disrupting our work habits, the needs of society are changing. We need to consider how precincts can offer productive, entertaining and safe environments across a 24-hour cycle. For example, the late night economy in many of Australia’s cities is not reaching its potential due to limited commercial and retail operating hours. Our precincts would benefit significantly from a more vibrant night environment and a mix of uses that activate spaces at various times of the day and night.

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Transport and walkability

Mobility is not just about transport – it is about how we move in our everyday lives. As we move towards innovative methods of mobility that are more efficient, healthy and sustainable, we should be considering not just our mentality towards mobility but also our behaviours: how we move and how we should be moving into the future.

Private vehicles have in the past been the most time-efficient way for people to travel in and across our cities (in some cities, they still are). But rapid population increase and the subsequent increase in the number of cars on the road is causing dire congestion in our major cities. Congestion leads to a loss of quality time, reduces productivity and has a range of environment and health impacts, including road accident fatalities.

The move towards autonomous vehicles is inevitably occurring. PwC has identified that with autonomous vehicles will come increased mobility for the young, the elderly, and people with disabilities, while as much as 90% of vehicle accidents will be eliminated – equating, most importantly, to saved lives, but also a potential saving of $31.9 billion annually to the Australian economy[3].

The key step in addressing issues of mobility is to focus on the needs of people. Focusing on giving time back to the individual to spend with their families, friends, at work or in leisure, while increasing health benefits as well as gaining back land and enhancing the livability and attractiveness of our urban spaces, points to increasing public transport as a solution.

We also need to invest more cleverly in walkability and the significant impact this will have on the health and connectivity of our communities. We can then consider the opportunities for interactions between destinations – what will walkers encounter on their way to work or home and how can this improve both their lives and the productivity of the city?

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Precincts must be accessible. Accessibility for persons with a disability is essential, but so is providing access for young families with prams and small children, and the aged population. But the physical accessibility is not the only consideration. In charging fees for the use of public spaces are we excluding lower-income individuals and families from using these important spaces? Are we providing adequate public transport and personal mobility options for these spaces to ensure those without private vehicles have access too? This is a question of equity, and our precincts must be equitable.

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Contact us

Joseph Carrozzi

Cities Agenda Leader, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 2 8266 1144

Clara Cutajar

Partner, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 2 8266 3497

Kylee Anastasi

Partner, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 2 8266 5069

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