Apartment glut but city still dead after dark

Efforts to invigorate Perth’s city centre through residential development have produced a glut of luxury apartments, but failed to deliver the thriving community the city needs after dark.

However, the central city area including West Perth, East Perth, Northbridge and the CBD continues to show strong population growth.

Colliers Jardine research manager David Cresp said the inner city population is predicted to increase by 6,000 or 50 per cent to more than 18,000 by the end of 2002.

Designing residential space for the city, architects and developers grapple with small spaces, noisy environments and a lack of public and private sector services.

“Design in the city is different, it’s a more dense form that takes a vertical shape and open space is much smaller,” Tony Casella director and architect at CCJ Design said.

However, Peter Gianoli project director at Mirvac-Fini, said opportunities for low-cost residential development in the city were scarce.

“To truly provide a vibrant city we need the whole spectrum of dwellers, but sites for those opportunities in the city haven’t existed for quite some time,” Mr Gianoli said.

The developers claim that if they have to compete with retail or commercial land uses for sites, the high land costs force them to build high-density luxury apartments to make a return on their investment.

Derwent Southern, president of the Inner City Housing Developers Association, said inflexible building codes and thoughtless application of these codes had restricted the type of developments in the city.

Mr Southern said problems with the planning guidelines and their application had made low-cost residential developments difficult in the inner city.

“The inner city can’t be treated like a normal residential area, the urban design components are too important, applying rigid design guidelines won’t work,” Mr Southern said.

“The inner city needs more flexible building codes and council needs to understand you’re catering for something very different to Subiaco or Peppermint Grove.

“The government needs to look at the regulatory environment and part of that is the building code.”

Mr Southern claims the government and council need to recognise the innate support the resident population gives to an area.

“Cities that don’t have the socio-economic mix tend to attract social problems,” he said.

City Housing is an independent, private sector body that provides housing to people who cannot afford to buy their own home or rent in the private sector.

City Housing has a portfolio of more than 200 properties in the inner city area and generates more than $1 million in turnover.

Hans Gerritsen, executive officer of City Housing, believes the government has a role in providing lower-cost housing in the city area.

“You can’t have a community without the full range of residents,” Mr Gerritsen said.

“The city of Subiaco was one of the first councils to recognise and institute a social housing policy.”

But the concept of a broad social mix in residential developments, like offering low-cost housing, was strongly opposed by residents of the new Subiaco Centro.

Woods Bagot director Ross Donaldson said architects needed to have a more strategic planning role in the design of inner city residential developments.

“One of the driving things architecture practices need to have is a broader planning perspective – thinking needs to be bit more strategic,” Mr Donaldson said.

“There’s an element of social responsibility that coincides with good business thinking.

“We’ve got to diversify, it is coming but it’s been a bit too long coming.

“Essentially, the success of inner city residential developments depends on a good social mix without which residential populations fail to develop into communities.”

Mr Casella said the success of inner city developments could be measured by the interplay between residents and the city.

“ Interaction in the suburbs is via children, but children play in parks... in the city the interaction is between the city and the residents.”

Mirvac-Fini’s St James residential development in Northbridge designed by Jones Coulter Young has 18 different types of dwellings from million dollar apartments to bed-sits.

“St James is recognised worldwide as extremely successful, and in that instance the Perth City Council we’re heavily involved in the project,” Mr Gianoli said.

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