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The latest happenings in the Melbourne property market. For our Essays and The Secret Agent Report, see our Research page.


Category Archives For: Urbanisation

Sustainable Urban Landscapes

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Secret Agent recently reported on sustainability and looked at various ways sustainable features can be incorporated in the design of commercial or residential buildings. In this post, we take a look at sustainability from an urban planning perspective. Sustainability in the urban setting is about “finding new and better ways to achieve the same or better functionality, new materials and new technologies” as demonstrated in the following emerging trends.

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The Secret Agent Report – Urban Spaces

We have just released our latest Secret Agent report!

Cities with dynamic streetscapes make inner city living attractive to many, and inevitably stimulate the growth of property prices as demand becomes greater. Arguably, what makes a city liveable is the quality of its public spaces.

As Melbourne’s city apartments continue to grow in number, and yet shrink in size, it is important that we maintain the desirability of public, shared spaces for mutual enjoyment.

This month, Secret Agent wanted to find out what differentiates a great urban space from the rest.

Start reading this report by clicking on the link below:

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Horizontal-Travelling Elevators

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In the early 20th century it would have been hard to visualise our current urban landscape full of skyscrapers, cars and elevated walkways. Almost 100 years later, it is just as difficult to picture what our future cities will look like.

A glimpse at some of the projects in developmental stages would suggest that we have a lot to look forward to. Take for example what is being achieved with one of the most significant, yet restrictive, elements of modern architecture: elevators.

The concept of the elevator was invented in the Middle Ages. It wasn’t until 1854 that a safety mechanism was designed that would prevent these lifts from falling if the hoisting rope broke. Skyscrapers could then become a possibility, and for the next 150 years or so, elevators would continue to become a staple part of multi-storey buildings. Without any further innovation, the elevator would remain a cable-hoisted box in a single, linear shaft, forcing buildings to comply with its limitations.

Enter ThyssenKrupp, a German industrial group who has developed the horizontal elevator. In 2014, ThyssenKrupp revealed their Multi elevator technology to the world. Using magnetic levitation technology (the same way Bullet trains are powered), the Multi lift system remains cable-free and is not limited to one elevator shaft. These elevators are free to move vertically and horizontally, with multiple units operating within the same shafts. The result is a more efficient transportation system inside and even between buildings.

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Lessons from Jan Gehl

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For the fifth consecutive year, Melbourne has been named the world’s most liveable city by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual survey. While the ranking is based on a range of factors such as healthcare, culture, education and infrastructure, Secret Agent believes that Melbourne’s success is due to thoughtful urban design.

We owe it to Jan Gehl, the Danish architect and urban designer who worked together with Melbourne City Council in the early 1990s to transform the city from, in his own words, “neutron-bombed, not a soul – not even a cat”, into a place for people. Much of our laneway culture and outdoor dining today can be attributed to Gehl’s visionary thinking and humanistic approach to urban design.

Three main principles can be drawn from Gehl’s work:

1. Design the city at 5km/h

Cities had always been designed for people, who move at a modest speed of about 5km/h, up until the boom of the automobile in the 1960s. New cities were then designed at 60km/h – wider, further apart, less accessible by foot. Gehl’s intervention in Melbourne applied the human scale of the older, 5km/h cities, giving birth to our laneway culture that is now inseparable from the city’s identity. Narrow, dense and brimming with life, there is a certain magic that comes with compact spaces.

Thanks to Gehl and planning changes, Melbourne CBD has gained 20 hectares of footpaths over 15 years. Designing walkable urban spaces encourages people to do so, resulting in a healthier population. Think about how far a person has to walk to get from A to B; is it a comfortable distance? If it necessarily becomes a lengthy walk, can it be a safe, pleasant and eventful journey?

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The Secret Agent Report – The Arden-Macaulay Plan

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
– Buckminster Fuller

Big infrastructure projects are of great interest to Secret Agent. These large scale projects have profound implications to the liability of our city. Much is at stake for home owners and investors seeking to take advantage of the remodelling of large inner city precincts.

For this report Secret Agent decided to investigate an urban renewal project that is not so talked about. The Arden-Macaulay Urban Renewal Project (AMURP) is currently in its planning and implementation stages. This project is unique in that it is not a single suburb being remodelled but rather a significant area that encompasses two inner city suburbs; Kensington and North Melbourne.

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The Arden Macaulay Plan

Excerpt:

By now you would have heard about the massive number of apartment buildings going up in and around Melbourne’s CBD. Inner city Melbourne is rapidly changing and its densification is an ongoing process we have been watching develop over a number of years. In fact it is so commonplace now in the lives of those living or working in the inner city that we rarely blink an eye when we walk past another construction zone, drive through road works, or see a crane in the sky.

Big infrastructure projects are of great interest to Secret Agent. These large scale projects have profound implications to the liability of our city. Much is at stake for home owners and investors seeking to take advantage of the remodelling of large inner city precincts.

Urban renewal is not a new phenomenon. Think of Port Melbourne, Docklands, South Wharf and the future Fishermen’s Bend.

Even South Yarra underwent urban renewal to bring it to the vibrant and dense suburb it is today. These are all widely talked about suburbs and many of us have experienced the changes urban renewal has brought about in these areas (except Fishermen’s Bend).

For this report Secret Agent decided to investigate an urban renewal project that is not so talked about. The Arden-Macaulay Urban Renewal Project (AMURP) is currently in its planning and implementation stages. This project is unique in that it is not a single suburb being remodelled but rather a significant area that encompasses two inner city suburbs; Kensington and North Melbourne.

What is Urban Renewal?

Melbourne has been experiencing a massive growth in population over the past few years and this is unlikely to stop anytime soon.  A majority of this growth is occurring in inner Melbourne as we have talked about previously in our “Urbanisation” feature and “From Rags to Riches” report.

The CBD alone experienced a record 23% increase in population in 2013 (ABS, 2013). To adapt to the huge increase in the number of people, densification needs to occur across Greater Melbourne in a distributed manner. This means that changes need to be made to make the most of limited land supply close to the CBD so that Melbourne can accommodate the growing population and its status as one of the world’s most liveable cities can remain.

To enable this growth to continue smoothly, the creation of efficient and sustainable communities and the renewal of urban areas is essential. The concept of urban renewal involves redeveloping areas in order to reach their full potential. This requires increasing the density of land use, encouraging mixed land use and creating an environment where people can live and work together.

Urban renewal is often associated with the removal of slums, gentrification and the establishment of wealth in a community. This is easy to see when you think of some of the most successful urban renewal projects in Melbourne (Port Melbourne and South Yarra) and what has become of these suburbs as a result.

Reference:

ABS. (2013). 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2012-13. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/3218.0~2012-13~Main+Features~Main+Features?OpenDocument


The Secret Agent Report – From Rags to Riches

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
– Jane Jacobs

The extraordinary changes to our inner cities and downtowns are unprecedented in modern times.

The movement to the inner city is not just a local phenomenon but a worldwide trend that can be observed whether you are in London, San Fransciso, New York, Sydney or Melbourne. It is important to realise that what is being discussed here is not a general movement to a city, rather, this trend is a movement to the real inner core of the city. As cities grow the density of their cores increase and at the same time the density falls in their peripheries. This story looks at the consequences of urbanisation. It is about the extreme premiums being paid to be in a position that is highly walkable, close to the commerce opportunities of the CBD, rich in transportation options and a way of avoiding traffic congestion.

Our cover image this month has been provided by one of Secret Agent’s own connections. The house pictured is in Drummond Street Carlton North. The rooftop pictures are also in Carlton North. The celebration is not with champagne – but with a found litre of rotten milk!

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From Rags to Riches Report

Excerpt:

The drastic changes in sale prices as a result of the urbanisation trend have been none larger than Melbourne’s very own CBD and surrounds. In the 90s and early to mid 2000s the focus of the property market was on the tremendous change in rezoned farm land on the fringes of Melbourne. People could buy property or land cheaply and chose to set up their dream homes in the outer suburbs. Now, the focus has shifted and has become more about the centre of each capital city as waves of foreign investment clashes with local resources to secure prime centralised real estate in the inner city regions. 

Let’s go back in time to the year 1969, when the Soviet Union launched Venera 6 towards Venus, Nixon became President of the United States of America and Rod Laver won the Grand Slam for a record-breaking second occasion. It was a simpler life. A time when the humble restaurant menu had three choices. When coffee was coffee, and not spoken about as if it were a tropical fruit, “…sweet and well rounded with hints of pineapple, apple and red berries, with subtle vanilla on the finish.” Many of Melbourne’s young and adventurous creatives, artists, and bohemians embraced living in the inner city suburbs, while others fled to escape the dirt and slums that had developed.

In 1969, you could buy a terrace like the one pictured above in Drummond Street Carlton North, for a modest $7,000. The surroundings were a little less comfortable back then and the neighbourhood was truly edgy. Edgy back then was more of a negative connotation rather than how we would use the term today as a positive description of many inner city pockets. This was a time when gentrification wasn’t even in the vocabulary.

To put the sale price for the property in perspective, consider the cost of a round the world airline ticket at that time. An airline ticket of this kind (like the one pictured above) could be purchased in 1967 for $567 – roughly a tenth of the value of the North Carlton terrace. The same type of airline ticket is now valued at four times the 1969 price.

On the other hand, the $7,000 terrace is now worth almost a million dollars which is 142 times the original price paid. Even after adjusting for inflation, the house has experienced an extremely large turnaround. $7000 in 1969 is approximately $76,000 in today’s dollars. In inflation adjusted terms a terrace in Carlton North would still be valued at over 13 times that of the one purchased in 1969. 

The cost of airline tickets is becoming cheaper and cheaper whilst house prices in the inner city continue to rise steadily.

The question on everyone’s mind is will this huge change in property value be repeated?