Posts Tagged ‘development’

Wastelands, or just a waste of space?

November 28, 2011

In the short space of a few years, the level of investment in major infrastructure projects into Adelaide’s public transport network has increased several-fold. This includes a $2.6 billion upgrade to Adelaide’s rail network which involves electrification to allow the operation of electric trains, sleeper and track replacement, signalling, station and crossing upgrades.

A number of stations have been rebuilt or upgraded across the network in the past few years – Oaklands has a brand new station and the stations at Blackwood and Hallett Cove have been tidied up and provided with proper shelters. Several more along the Gawler Line are presently in the process of being upgraded or rebuilt.

However, the vast majority of stations have missed out on funding for upgrade and remain little more than deteriorating shelters on platforms that would not even pass as being adequate for a bus stop, let alone a train station.

Understandably, government funding is limited and is usually directed to the most urgent of projects. A single station upgrade can easily cost up into the millions of dollars. But if the SA Government is serious about getting bums on seats – those of trains and buses preferably, not cars – it needs to provide better train stations in addition to the new trains and tracks that already have funding.

If the government can’t and won’t invest in the upgrade of stations, why not provide commercial opportunities and let the private sector invest in them? I can’t say that this is an idea that will work, but I believe that it is worth exploring.

The train stations on any network that are busiest are usually those that are within close proximity to major commercial areas or are major interchanges between different lines or modes of transport. But some stations on the Adelaide rail network serve next to nothing.

Islington Station in Adelaide’s northern suburbs is a great example of this. It is surrounded by empty fields and lands previously part of the Islington railyards that are no more. There is a new industrial park being developed to the north-east, but this by and large has it’s back turned to the train station and the other empty land is unused space begging to be developed.

Islington Station and surrounds - currently there are large empty tracts of land around the station. (Source: Nearmap)

Having just returned from Japan, the country with the mother of all large rail networks, there’s some clear patterns as to why the rail network is so busy and why the stations are as well – the railway companies often own the office, hotel and retail buildings surrounding the stations as well! In other words, the commercial operations surrounding the station draw people into using the system and the stations are true destinations in themselves.

There is a key difference between the Adelaide rail system and those in Japanese cities though. The Japanese systems are owned by their operators, whereas the Adelaide system is in government hands. And I don’t any commercial sense in the Adelaide rail system becoming privately owned.

However, I do believe that are opportunities for developers to be involved in the improvement of the rail system through better stations in the form of public private partnerships (PPP). In exchange for the rights to develop land around and above train stations, developers could also contribute to the upgrading of the train stations to make them safer and more user friendly facilities. The presence of more people using the train station resulting from increased development near stations also provides a form of passive surveillance.

Developing over train stations in this manner isn’t exactly new, it has been done before in both Melbourne and Sydney. At Chatswood in Sydney, the station was redeveloped to accommodate the new Epping to Chatswood rail link (ECRL) and includes a new shopping centre and (yet to be built) apartment towers. It also provided new public spaces in the area around the station.

Proposal for CTI - The new station and shopping centre have been completed, but the apartment towers remain to be built. (Source: InDesign)

The Chatswood example is a very large undertaking and is not of the scale I would imagine currently feasible in Adelaide. There are three proposed apartment buildings up to 42 levels tall at CTI which is excessive for any suburban train station in Adelaide considering that no buildings of this height currently exist even in the centre of Adelaide. It could work for smaller scale undertakings though such as smaller office and residential buildings with ground level retail.

Railway stations as destinations instead of just transfer points

May 27, 2011

The Japanese railway systems have always impressed me which is why I refer to them quite often in some of my posts. One aspect of their networks that stands out in my mind is how they utilise the spaces at their railway stations.

In most cities, the railway stations are simply nodes where people from nearby areas converge to travel on trains to and from other areas of the city. They serve as transfer points where people come and go on their way to other places.

In Japan, the thinking is very different. The stations themselves are part of the individual experience that goes beyond moving from A to B via C. They are more than just a collection of platforms, tracks and concourses. They are designed as part of an integrated component of the urban fabric of Japanese cities, rather than just connections to it.

How, you ask?

There’s three things I believe that make Japanese railway stations stand out from those of other countries:

  • Interesting architecture
  • Interesting public spaces
  • Interesting shops and restaurants

Interesting Architecture

Interesting architecture in train stations is not all that uncommon across the world. New York has Grand Central, Paris has Gare De Lyon and London has St Pancras. Even Sydney Central Station, Flinders Street in Melbourne and Adelaide Station could be classified as interesting. There is something in common to all of these stations I’ve just mentioned. They all have grand masonry facades as they were constructed prior to the 1930s.

Japanese stations are also grand, yet many of them were rebuilt for various reasons. Some of them were bombed in wars such as Tokyo Station, which is only now having its dome restored to its original condition over 65 years later. Others such as Kyoto and Osaka have become outdated or overcrowded and have been completely rebuilt.

At Kyoto Station, as part of the new millennium celebrations a new train station was built with large open spaces and a large spanning roof.

The exterior of the new Kyoto Station, from the north side.

At Osaka Station, work on rebuilding the station is under way and nearly complete. Part of the rebuild includes a new office tower, a large roof spanning the station and new concourses.

The recently redeveloped Osaka Station, with new roof, entrances and office building. (Source: GORIMON on Flickr)

Interesting Public Spaces

This is where the Japanese stations are very clever with their designs. Since many of the stations are completely surrounded by other buildings and structures, open spaces adjacent to the stations are often not feasible. Instead, they’ve opted to use the space within the footprint of the station to provide the open public space.

At Kyoto, the public spaces extend upwards from the lower levels of the station. One of the most intriguing features of Kyoto Station is the large bank of escalators that gradually allow the public to reach the top of the station, where the views over the rest of the station and Kyoto are amazing.

Kyoto Station looking down to the lower levels as seen from the upper roof area.

At Osaka, the public spaces are numerous and are located in different areas of the station. The redevelopment of the station features eight new public spaces This includes a rooftop area inspired by a Spanish patio (Sun Plaza) and a number of other plazas and rooftop gardens.

The new rooftop patio on Osaka Station. (Source: GORIMON on Flickr)

At the new Central Gate entrance to the station is also an interesting piece of street art, in the form of a computer controlled waterfall display which displays the time and cascading images of cherry blossoms.

More photos of the nearly completed Osaka Station redevelopment can be seen here and here. (This site is in Japanese)

Interesting Shops and Restaurants

For the Japanese railway companies who own these stations, not only does adding space for shops and restaurants encourage more activity in and around the stations, these are also a key component of their business which encourage commuters to use their railways.

This photo below comes from Kyoto Station, an important station in the historical city and is located on the Tokaido Main Line (JR Kyoto Line and JR Biwako Line) and the Tokaido Shinkansen Line which cross Japan from east to west. There are stations adjacent to the north gate (in image below) as well as the underground passageways which criss-cross the station.

The north gate of Kyoto Station, there are shops at the ground level and under the station (not seen here).

In Kyoto’s case, they have added more than just shops and restaurants. The station also a hotel (seen in the first photo of Kyoto Station in this post) as well as offices in the building above the station.

An Example of a Missed Opportunity

While some cities and suburbs in Australia are taking advantage of their key locations adjacent to major railway stations, often through property developers independent of the publicly-owned railway systems rather than through the railway companies themselves, others are building railway stations that turn their back on the very communities they are meant to serve.

In Adelaide, one of the biggest missed opportunities is at Mawson Lakes. The new station at Mawson Lakes on the Gawler Line was completed in 2006, but the community it serves commenced development in the late 1990s. The station was a late add-on to the development and sits on the edge of the community rather than near the middle of it. Rather than having a main street or significant residential or commercial property development near the station, it is instead surrounded by a large car park. As a result, most people who use the station drive there rather than walk, cycle or go by bus.

The station at Mawson Lakes is a fair distance from the main street or many of the residential areas it was built to serve. The station is marked by the red circle and the main street by the green line. (Source: Nearmap)

Although Mawson Lakes is one of Adelaide’s busiest stations, there are only people around when there are trains arriving and departing. For much of the time, it is a deserted space that really should have been better integrated into planning with the town centre about a kilometre away.

Access between both sides of the station is difficult because there is only one place to cross – at the northern end – which is even further away from the town centre. Ideally, there should also be a second place to cross the tracks at the southern end of the station in the form of a footbridge. This would also improve pedestrian access between the residential areas on the western side of the tracks and the town centre on the eastern side. It would also serve to discourage individuals from illegally crossing the tracks such as in this incident in April 2011, where an express train narrowly missed a teenager. Fortunately, there is space to do this should it be decided upon in the future.

Summary

With public transport becoming an ever increasingly important part of improving the sustainability and liveability of our cities, it is imperative that railway infrastructure is not simply provided as an alternative to driving but that is also integrated into the existing urban landscape respectfully rather than as an ungracefully dropped add-on. The Japanese model has successfully demonstrated over many years that a modern railway service can be provided as a key component of the urban environment and done so profitably at no expense to taxpayers.

The private railway companies have done this by combining real estate and development opportunities at their railway stations with their railway operations and thus created entire sustainable communities around their railway systems. It also makes for better and more efficient planning as the well-being of the community is much in the interests of the railway companies if they are to remain profitable.

Franklin Street, Adelaide – A street in transition, Part 2

April 11, 2011

Traditionally, much of Adelaide’s central business district has developed in the area north of Waymouth and Pirie Streets, east of Topham Mall, Leigh Street and Bentham Street and west of Pulteney Street. Since the turn of the century, an increasing amount of new development has been further south with areas such as King William Street south of Victoria Square and Franklin Street now seeing more building activity.

Franklin Street is about to undergo its biggest transformation in its 174 year history. Over a dozen development plans are in various stages of planning or construction. These developments will transform what is one of the city’s quietest and most derelict streets into a key expansion zone for the central business district. The map below shows where many of these developments will be located.

Map of developments planned for Franklin Street. These are numbered 1 through to 8. (Source: Nearmap)

Part 1 of this two part series can be accessed here.

5. 71-83 Franklin Street

Directly opposite the former Just Kidding site is another derelict building, also used as a car park. This site, located next door to the new interstate bus terminal is earmarked for a 12 level office building. This proposal is still awaiting action.

6. The Precinct South East Corner

Located on the south eastern corner of the Morphett Street and Franklin Street intersection is The Precinct Development, adjacent to the new bus station. It is expected that a couple of residential towers will be constructed here but specific plans have not been identified.

7. The Precinct North West Corner

Diagonally opposite is another section of the Precinct at the same intersection, which is on the former Balfours site. So far, this is the only development on Franklin Street which has elements of the plan completed. It is expected that further residential towers and a retail complex will be constructed here in the future.

8. 176-186 Morphett Street

Not strictly on Franklin Street, but very close is a proposed 15 level apartment building. This building will replace a single level office building currently on the site.

As you can see, there are some exciting times ahead for development in the western part of the city. There are a number of developments near Franklin Street that I have not included such as those on Rowlands Place and Andrew Street (I do like this name very much), and it is likely that not all of the development projects mentioned here will proceed or be completed in their current planned form.

Franklin Street, Adelaide – A street in transition, Part 1

April 7, 2011

Traditionally, much of Adelaide’s central business district has developed in the area north of Waymouth and Pirie Streets, east of Topham Mall, Leigh Street and Bentham Street and west of Pulteney Street. Since the turn of the century, an increasing amount of new development has been further south with areas such as King William Street south of Victoria Square and Franklin Street now seeing more building activity.

Franklin Street is about to undergo its biggest transformation in its 174 year history. Over a dozen development plans are in various stages of planning or construction. These developments will transform what is one of the city’s quietest and most derelict streets into a key expansion zone for the central business district. The map below shows where many of these developments will be located.

Map of developments planned for Franklin Street. These are numbered 1 through to 8. (Source: Nearmap)

1. City Central Tower 8

One of the largest developments currently under construction on Franklin Street is City Central Tower 8, an 18 level building which will become the new home of the Australia Tax Office in Adelaide when completed. The building is part of a larger project known as City Central which is a mixed-use development including offices, retail and hotel space. The project includes the redevelopment of Electra House, presently being used by Tuxedo Cat through the duration of the Adelaide Fringe. Currently, only Tower 1 and Tower 2 have been completed.

2. The Atrium

Further west along Franklin Street at the former Telstra Exchange site (42-56 Franklin Street), a 17 level office building that sits adjacent to the Pitt Street intersection. The former Telstra Exchange Building that previous occupied the site was demolished in 2009 and the site is currently an empty plot of land.

3. A site awaiting development

Directly opposite where The Atrium was proposed is this multi-storey car park which is provides an ugly frontage to Franklin Street. Truscotts previously occupied the ground floor, but this is currently not in use. Rebuilding at this location would remove one of the ugliest structures on the street. I am led to believe that there was previously a proposal for a 9 level office building here, but can not confirm this.

4. 58-76 Franklin Street

On the north side of Franklin Street west from Pitt Street is another derelict building formerly occupied by Just Kidding. Both this building and the adjacent lot are currently used as a car park. The five storey extension to the car park on Young Street behind this site (also part of this development) is currently under construction, while the 16 level apartment building on the corner and the 19 level office building will soon commence construction.

Part 2 will follow shortly.