What is the Future of CBDs....? Central Social Districts.

This evening I was a guest at the Planning Institute Australia’s Gold Coast event, “Our New CBD…. Embrace the Opportunity.”

I joined three other Panelists to share a view on the creation of Gold Coast City's CBD and answer questions on what this means for our growth as a city.  

What was I doing there!??!  

Well, I was the wildcard.  The voice of another side….. the lone creative marketer standing in a room of planners, architects and city officials.  I was very afraid. 

Here’s the snapshot of what I said:

The Gold Coast Has The Opportunity To Create A CBD Like No Other In Australia.  

The opportunity presents itself because the Gold Coast, as a linear city, has never really had a designated CBD.  Certain areas have claimed it…. or positioned to claim it… Robina, Varsity Lakes, Broadbeach or Surfers Paradise but none have really owned it and until now there has never been a planned CBD.

Now there is.  It’s certain and the planning scheme over it provides around 150 - 200 years of development supply in a flexible and market responsive manner.  This is an opportunity like no other in Australia. 

We must ask the question, “What does a CBD look like in 50, 100, 150+years?  Who will work in it and what will they do? Does it look the same as it does today?”  

I doubt it. 

The CBD of the future….. probably isn’t a CBD - a Central Business District. 

It probably acts more like a Central Social District.   And, this is what the Gold Coast City Heart needs to act like. 

Why?  Well, there are three reasons. 


1.  We Don’t Work Like We Used To

The digital disruption to our 21st century lives means we’re a far more transient workforce than ever before.  It means we collaborate a lot, we innovate, we create and want work spaces that support this new way of working.   The days of the set office (or even desk) may well be gone.  We move about, do this project, that project - work with this team, that team.  

We are mobile!  We are more ’social’ than ever before.  Just look in your pocket, briefcase or satchel; there is probably a smartphone, tablet and laptop staring back at you.

This is a tectonic shift in the work culture of the post-modern knowledge worker. 

This new economy is the Social Economy.  

Therefore, we can’t afford to design a central business district like we would in the 20th Century.

The heart of Gold Coast City needs to be social, because this is the heart of the 21st Century worker. 

The Gold Coast is the capital of small business and entrepreneurship, this ought to be a cinch for our city to deliver this style of work. 


2.  A CBD Is No Longer About Business

The suburbs have reinvented themselves over the last 30 years.  And, they’re darn good competition to most CBDs.  

Today’s 'burbs (when done well) are funky little villages with coffee shops and business opportunities.  Gone are the days of the post war suburban treks into the CBD for the vast majority of the workforce. 

In fact, Urban Economics published a report earlier in 2013 which states that 4 out 5 jobs are not in the CBD, they’re in the suburbs.  A CBD really only represents around 10 - 15% of a city’s workforce.  

What’s a CBD about if more than 80% of businesses are not there?  They’re about connecting.  They’re social hubs which provide health, entertainment, retail, government services and cultural activities. 

The heart of the city is a social space. 


3.  CBDs Need to Be Liveable More Than They Are Workable

A 21st Century CBD needs to be more liveable than it needs to be workable.  Cities all around the world are trying to turn weekend ghost towns back into liveable communities.  

A street of commercial towers which result in no life beyond 7pm on a Friday and don’t resurrect until 8am Monday are a massive lost opportunity.  Ever stood in the middle of Pitt St in Sydney on a weekend and wondered where the other 4 million people are?

The future CBD is not about working but about living.  They’re social spaces more than they are business spaces. 

I believe social interaction leads to business interaction.  And, that’s exactly how a city should be thought about.  

People buy things from people.  Therefore, create spaces where people can interact and you’ll probably, quite accidentally, create economic growth.   

The future of the Gold Coast is about creating a Central Social District.  A place where small businesses thrive, where new housing forms take shape in vertical and horizontal shaped buildings, where culture thrives, where retail is mixed with lifestyle and towers hold an unknown multitude of uses and services.  

A Central Social District puts people first and commerce second.  

We don’t live to work.  We work to live.  

The Gold Coast knows this only too well.  Therefore, we ought to be worlds best at delivering it. 

The Southport CBD, or rather CSD, is the greatest opportunity our city has to reinvent itself for the future.  

As a local with a young family this excites me.  As a small business owner this invigorates me.  Forget about the glitzy urban projects of the big smokey cities with their million dollar 1 bedroom apartments and massive commercial rates.  

This unfolding reinvention of the Gold Coast's heart for the everyday Australian is possibly the most exciting project in urban growth anywhere in the country.  

 

Image Credit:  Paul Bamford