Recently there has been a lot said by various people about proposed Scheme Amendment 49, and I thought I'd take the time to get to know it better. So I've decided to show the amendment a bit of love and I'm inviting everyone along for the ride.
The other day, Scheme Amendment 49 and I enjoyed our first date, and the good news is that my mo wasn't too scary and I've managed to score a second date!
Scheme Amendment 49.
It's clear that there are many sites in Freo desperate for good redevelopment, so let's evaluate Scheme Amendment 49 from the perspective of a developer.
Do I get certainty about what is required and that a decision in my favour will be made?
Yes and no. Scheme Amendment 49 does include some hard and fast rules about some aspects of any proposals. But, Council is hedging its bets about its design outcomes by including an open-ended design criteria that possibly raises more questions than it answers. Unfortunately uncertainty is exacerbated by the absence of a set of design guidelines. The developer is left asking the legitimate question: How do I show that my proposal fits the design criteria and will they agree with me?
Is my exposure to risk lowered?
I'm thinking more yes than no. In its favour, Scheme Amendment 49 provides more options than were previously available to developers. Increasing the height that is allowable and removing minimum parking requirements for office uses for new buildings create more options than were previously available. Risk is lowered as developers can reduce their costs by not having a large parking requirement to fulfil and by including a mix of uses - retail, office and residential. If the market drops out of the commercial sector at least there is the back up of having a residential component as part of the development and vice versa.
As we'd all appreciate where there is uncertainty there is risk. As discussed earlier, when Council hedges its bets about design outcomes it wants through including open-ended design criteria with no accompanying design guidelines, uncertainty is created. From the developers perspective, the absence of design guidelines means that plans are open to interpretation without a logical basis for determining their conformity. This leads to additional risk by possibly increasing costs associated with modifying or preparing new plans, a lengthy application process, and a possible appeal process.
Will I make enough profit so that I can fund my next development?
Let's not kid ourselves, developers are here to make a profit. Scheme Amendment 49 helps to a large extent by providing more options and potentially reducing one aspect of the cost of construction (parking). There is the potential for a smooth approval process (which helps with keeping costs down) but this would be helped by increasing certainty through a set of design guidelines.
So from the mindset of a developer, it seems that Scheme Amendment 49 is a step in the right direction for attracting development. Although will it be good development?
What about getting kick ass buildings?
It looks like Scheme Amendment 49 ticks most boxes when it comes to creating the conditions for redevelopment by proving certainty, lowering risk and increasing potential profits. We need to replace the old, soulless buildings so this is a good thing.
But we don't want rubbish. Putting the developers hat on was useful as it confirmed for me that this amendment represents only one part of the equation for achieving good development that leads to people-friendly places in the eastern part of Freo's city centre. So now that Scheme Amendment 49 has planted the seed for redevelopment, what else is being proposed to ensure that we get kick ass development?
This is where, for me, Council's initiative is flawed. In considering the perspective of a developer as well as understanding our - the community's - need for great places and buildings, there is something missing. Design guidelines are missing. It is disappointing that they have not been prepared to accompany this amendment as the certainty and guidance that they would bring to achieving good development seems to present a win-win scenario for everyone. (Come to think of it, it'd be nice to have a place making plan that focuses on improving the public spaces in this precinct as well.)
So in summary, as part of Council's initiative to revitalise the eastern portion of Freo's city centre, Scheme Amendment 49 does seem to create the conditions for attracting redevelopment. However, without supporting documents such as a set of design guidelines and even a place making plan, Council's initiative can be described as "all tip and no iceberg."
If I'm lucky enough to get a third date, we'll be discussing some of the specific features of Scheme Amendment 49.