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Apartment buildings with no car parks to accelerate says global expert

By Monica Boyd

An apartment building with no designated car parks?

The man who steered the $35 billion revitalisation of the Toronto waterfront for 13 years says car parks are becoming far less important for apartment dwellers and new buildings need to be future-proofed for a time when car parks aren’t needed.

John Campbell, the man who steered Toronto’s $35 billion waterfront precinct overhaul for 13 years, says authorities around the world will need to factor in the diminishing need for car parks in multi-storey developments as the digital economy and a shift away from vehicle ownership takes hold.

Mr Campbell, who stepped down from his position as chief executive of Toronto Waterfront last year after spear heading the staged overhaul of an 800 hectare precinct close to the Canadian city’s CBD, says planning authorities and governments will have to increasingly confront this “ticklish issue”.

He says the rising popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber, a preference for using public transport systems in CBDs and inner-city precincts and the looming use of driverless cars is behind the big shift, and there are lessons for Australia in the global trend.

Mr Campbell was speaking at the Urban Development Institute of Australia national congress in Adelaide on Tuesday where he also said that one of the keys to success for extensive waterfront overhauls is to ensure there are no residential apartments on the ground floors of apartment buildings facing toward public spaces and walkways because that rapidly kills the buzz and ambience of an area.

Toronto, with a population of 2.75 million, has just overtaken Chicago to become the fourth largest city in North America. One of the underlying tenets of the waterfront redevelopment was the need for it to be “future-proofed”. In the Toronto Waterfront project, residential developments, including an affordable housing component, were all wired with the fastest possible broadband.

“We see it as very, very important that everyone has access to the digital economy,” he said.

Apartment buildings with car parks were encouraged to design them as flat spaces that could be easily configured in the future for other purposes, rather than always being condemned to be a car park.

Outside of the waterfront precinct, there has been a 42-storey condominium built in Toronto, which has no permanent residential car parks attached to it. It is a global trend.

“I think the authorities are starting to get wind of this.”

In Australia, several cities are embarking on major waterfront and riverfront redevelopments including the Barangaroo precinct on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, the riverbank overhaul fronting the River Torrens in Adelaide and the Riverside development on the foreshore of the Swan River at East Perth. Melbourne has undertaken an extensive revamp of its Docklands precinct, but that has attracted substantial criticism for being too much like a business park without a welcoming feel.

Mr Campbell says Australian cities have different strategies when it comes to revamping waterfront areas, but they each need to ensure there is maximum public engagement right from the outset. “Every city has a different take on it,” he says. But all cities are engaged in a “war for talent” where they are trying to attract young professionals to live in their cities, with attractive and inviting waterfront spaces a big drawcard which then delivers substantial spin-offs for the economy., Mar 8, 2016, Simon Evans

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