For sixteen years after the Geelong Cement Works in Fyansford Hill near Geelong closed in 2001, three concrete silos which remained stood as what many considered to be an eyesore.

In December 2017, however, internationally renowned street artist Tyrone Wright transformed these into works of art which celebrated the City of Geelong.

Along with making the site more appealing, this has helped to position Geelong as a creative-city region.

This is one example of  what Andrew Hoyne, founding principal at place visioning, property branding and marketing consultancy Hoyne, says are innovative approaches to transforming places in a way which delivers social and economic benefits.

During the recent Transform series hosted online by the Green Building Council of Australia, Hoyne outlined several strategies which he said could help maximise the value of places we build.

He cites several other examples.

In the Portuguese town of Agueda, an umbrella canopy (pictured above) provides a colourful area of pedestrian shade during summer and delivers a venue for activities such as outdoor workout classes.

Back home, a concept which his own firm invented known as Play Pod sees sites within cities which are unsightly and unsafe such as laneways and gaps between buildings transformed into destinational  experiences such as boxes of Rubik’s cubes in which different activities can be curated during night and day. This can involve, for example, children having stories told in the morning, small theatre during the day and short movies at night where people move toward train stations.

When going about placemaking, Hoyne says several principals are important.

1) Focus on people, not buildings

Notwithstanding the importance of buildings, Hoyne says the focus should be on people and how places can impact lives.

He says places should deliver benefits in three areas:

  • Social benefits through places which are safe, conducive to health and well-being and generate a sense of inclusiveness, cohesion and pride.
  • Economic benefits through maximising value per square meter in selling or leasing, engaging people long-term to facilitate investment, driving repeat customisation and maintaining local government buy-in.
  • Corporate value for developers who build positive spaces through improved corporate reputation and greater staff retention and morale.

2) Vision is Critical

When creating places, Hoyne says it is important to establish a vision and to create a blueprint for your development – a process he calls ‘place visioning’™. This will guide decision making, facilitate stakeholder engagement and serve as the overall plan which will subsequently be brought to life through master planning, development and construction and place activation.

To do this, Hoyne recommends four strategies:

  • Identification of what is ‘missing’ in the area along with any features of the place which are desired but which are not currently being provided. This should be done irrespective of the category of development – residential, commercial, retail or mixed use. For any precinct type, Hoyne says there are opportunities to improve experience, places and amenity.
  • Bringing these features alive in a way which is meaningful and which creates something with which people are able to engage and identify. To achieve this, Hoyne says it is necessary to identify a narrative or storey which goes beyond marketing and which addresses practical challenges and opportunities in a meaningful way.
  • Avoiding squeezing monetary value out of every square meter of space. Instead, Hoyne says we need to think about parts of assets which could be used for different purposes and how ‘dark spaces’ or small areas of land can be turned into opportunities for areas such as playgrounds, services or amenities. Often, Hoyne says, these do not generate immediate revenue but nevertheless deliver longer-term value by helping to make places stand out as destinations.
  • Embracing opportunity and being willing to accept risk. Whilst ‘cookie cutter’ approaches may be ‘safe’ and ‘familiar’, Hoyne says clientele will only be drawn to places which offer distinctive advantages and compelling reasons why they should be selected over other precincts.

When creating vison, Hoyne says it is important to think about anchors upon which this can be shaped.

These include:

  • Pillars or unique attributes of a place
  • Character and identity of the place
  • Anchors toward which people will be drawn
  • Amenity, retail and F&B which could be created but which does not exist elsewhere
  • The typologies and qualities of places which could be offered (apartments of different sizes etc.) and which may not be readily available elsewhere.
  • Public realm
  • Activation of places.

3) Regional Areas Need Placemaking

As well as cities, Hoyne says placemaking is important in regional areas and country towns.

He says many of these area have been impacted not just by recent drought and bushfires but also by loss of local services, infrastructure, or employment where dominant industries or employers have left.

With such places, it is important to think about how vibrant and liveable communities can be created with good prospects for employment and for designers and developers to partner with communities to consider how unique assets and attributes can be built upon, enhanced or brought back to life in a unique and compelling way.

Whilst creation of spaces which are unique and delightful is worthwhile, Hoyne says this cannot overshadow the importance of employment and creating places which are engaging in which to work as well as to raise children.

He says it is important to create long-term business plans that look at assets and create destinations in these places for years to come.

When doing this, Hoyne says it is important to:

  • nurture and support small businesses and entrepreneurs
  • recruit a diverse range of industrial employers
  • develop leaders who are versed in economic development
  • consider how existing assets could be repurposed
  • develop ideas for events based on local truths which would make the town destinational.

On the first point, Hoyne says encouraging small business and entrepreneurs will be especially important as many people are out of work following COVID-19. These people need to be supported through means such as grants, incentives, training and mentoring.

On the final point, Hoyne says it is important to consider what opportunities are available for events which make places destinational and any opportunities which could draw people to places in a way which has not been done previously.

In many cases, local ‘truths’ and history can be used not only to tell stories but to create something which is meaningful.

4) Rethink Industrial Land

Next, Hoyne says it is import to reconsider how land can be used.

Consider industrial precincts. In many cases, Hoyne says these operate from 6am to 4pm Mon-Fri and are deserted after hours and on weekends. Instead, they could be converted to industrial communities with seven day land use in which factories and warehouses are complemented with shop fronts which are open on evenings and weekends, weekend programs, playgrounds and areas which are walkable and safe.

On this score, Hoyne talks about what he refers to as the TRADERHOOD™ concept – industrial precincts which are designed for human scale which in turn entice people to enter and walk around and which pay attention to ‘fine grain’ and human experiences. These places need not simply be about big trucks and construction but can have a sense of fine grain F&B and experiences to create places where people would go if they lived nearby.

To do this, Hoyne says several elements are needed.

First, the focus must extend beyond wholesale trade and incorporate opportunities for local people to buy and sell from each other.

Next, precincts should be designed at a human scale and should be safe, comfortable and accessible.

Finally, places need to be activated outside of work hours. Facilities such as breweries, Hoyne said, can help make this happen.

5) Magnetic Experiences

Finally, Hoyne says it is important to communicate the message of these places through means such as social media. Here, magnetic experiences where visitors take selfies and share photos on Facebook/Instagram are critical.

This, he says will help to bring visitation, engage more ‘love’ and community pride, generate media and public relations, bring cultural elements to life in a way which is promoted and shared, generate commercial interest and ensure ongoing support for the creation of positive and dynamic places as stakeholders see that these deliver positive outcomes.

Whilst many are currently social distancing, Hoyne says  we have an opportunity to think about creating places for the longer term.

“Right now with the coronavirus, we aren’t actually thinking about how to bring people to a place,” Hoyne says.

“Quite the opposite – we are social distancing and doing our best to keep people apart.

“But it is our opportunity to start thinking about what we can do as things change over the next three, six or nine months.

“The work that we all do together in this industry doesn’t happen overnight. The ideas that we have today – we can be ready to bring to life in what will be a competitive environment later this year.

“We have to use this time to create vision to ensure that we have got ideas, that we are getting input from our community and our stakeholders. It’s never been more important than it is now.

“Now is the time that everybody has the chance to chip in and contribute to the places that they believe they want to see in the future.”