The main problem when it comes to urban renewal is that many projects are often hampered by outdated planning legislation.

Several Australian councils have recently managed to create radical and innovative designs for their communities’ public spaces, however, showing such change is possible with smart strategies.

Urban planning agency RobertsDay has been working with a number of councils to innovate in urban renewal all around Australia.

“Urban renewal is one of the key evolving opportunities for Australian councils today. And great places are about so much more than buildings,” said RobertsDay co-founder Mike Day.

He said big changes do not always require big investments.

“Often, councils already have all they need for a renewal project – it’s just about seeing their place in a different light,” he noted.

The key to successfully creating or reinventing an urban space is in following six crucial steps: Understand, Discover, Envision, Design, Convert and Deliver.

The first stage is about understanding and studying the needs of the community and the project possibilities, while the second stage is all about discovering the essence of the place. Part of the necessary approach is to map the DNA of the district and the features of the site.

St Thomas Place Masterplan

Description: An artist’s impression of proposed St Thomas Place masterplan to turn an empty and unproductive lot into Gold Coast arts hub and cultural precinct.

The third stage consists of developing the vision for the place and establishing the partnerships to deliver it. Depending on the complexity of each project, the government, community stakeholders, experts and developers will come together to collaborate and build a real time design. Based on the findings obtained through the earlier stages, a collectively agreed-upon vision is created.

The fourth stage is about creating a blueprint of the project including plans, codes and frameworks that will further define and guide the development of the built form, while the fifth stage is focused on converting designs to approvals.

The last stage consists of the delivery of the built form, coordination of landscape and civil design, shaping the marketing strategy, identifying opportunities for early provision of services and undertaking post occupancy research.

Multiple examples of smart strategies for urban renovation can be found in Australian cities, including the St. Thomas Quarter master plan to turn an empty and unproductive lot into the Gold Coast arts hub and cultural precinct; Coffs Harbour City Council saving $5 million from a parking infrastructure bill and reinvesting it in civic and cultural programs; and Bondi Junction’s project that consists of a low-cost, tactical way to test ideas for a pedestrian-friendly shopping centre.