Brisbane urban renewal: higher density or higher views?

Accommodating Brisbane’s projected population growth over coming decades means that we have to build around 138,000 new dwellings as “infill” development by 2031. (This infill development is intended to represent 88% of all new dwellings to be constructed by 2031 – a tall order !).

Meeting this target means densification of development in selected areas throughout the city – a proposition which generates opposition from existing residents who automatically equate density with high-rise buildings. This correlation between density and height is erroneous: sure, building tall is one way of acheiving density, but we have illustrated in a previous post that this is not the only way.

 However there is not a unified approach on how densification should be applied and achieved. Recent projects, now at development approval stage,  have taken the mid-rise  &  high-rise approach.  Projects such as the The “Mosaic” development in the Valley and “Parkside Boulevard One” in Newstead are going over the 20-storey limit.  

“Mosaic” is a hyperdense 20-storey mixed  use development with around 200 units, most of them being studio and 1-bedroom units.  

"Mosaic": expensive density with a view

If built, this development will be adjacent to the new low-cost  10-storey housing project which is to be built opposite the Valley pool and would achieve a density of  approximately 400 dwellings per hectare, similar to that of the Petrie Bight precinct. Paradoxically, this pricey units will be built on land formerly owned by the Housing Commission. 

10-storey affordable density in the Valley

The other development, “Parkside Boulevard One” in the Gasworks precinct in  Newstead, is a 25-storey height development with 182 units achieving a density of approximately 90/100 dwellings per hectare. If approved, the proposed 25-storey height will dramatically stand out against the neighbouring 4-5 storeys  of the  Woolstores Precinct in Teneriffe.  
Interestingly enough, dwelling density in the  low-rise Woolstores precinct  is higher than the one achieved by the proposed “Boulevard One” 25-storey development. As discussed in our previous post,  “Inner city Brisbane: a few comments on height and density” from  13 May, the Woolstores precinct have achieved a density of 190 dwellings per hectare with an average height of 4 storeys.  And this density includes an appropriate pedestrian scale with a dynamic village-like atmosphere.

Increased density: what is a 25-storey height really achieving?

So if  mid and high-rises don’t necessarily achieve the higher densities required by a sustainable urban strategy, what is the reason behind a 20-25 storey development? Certainly not increasing density as shown above. So they only thing that comes to our mind are “the views”, specifically views to sell. 

Achieving higher densities or higher views?

But unlike streets and boulevards which are for the whole community to utilize and enjoy, these views are to be enjoyed just by a few. On the other hand, pedestrian-scaled and mixed-use streetscapes like that of Grey Street in Southbank (6-12 storeys in height)  clearly demonstrate that being the backbone of the city fabric, “the street” is still the biggest and most attractive asset a city can have as it allows for  community, interaction, exchange, recreation and contemplation for all. 

Grey Street: density for all with a human scale

Moreover, increased densities  and good public spaces have been recently achieved by developments that do not rely on imposing excessive height on the urban fabric. A few local examples are: 

Density & height: achieving the right balance

These successful developments clearly demonstrate that higher densities -and therefore more sustainable cities- can be achieved by implementing building types that respect and promote community while providing adequately scaled public spaces and harmonious urban landscapes. 

The risks of equating increased density with increased height are all around the world to see. But we  just need to take a look at our local Brisbane context to verify the consequences of the abuse of height. The desolated Petrie Bight streetscape along with its polluted visual air space, are a sad reminder of  urban renewal guided by real estate frenzy. 

Petrie Bight: the "views" rat-race

..............and exciting streets!

So next time you see a 20-something building emerging from nowhere, stop and think if this is what you want to see as you approach beautiful Brissie, flying over the inner city suburbs: 



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