The population dilemma facing Australia’s cities

Originally Published by Brisbane Times 24 August 2015, Tony Moore.

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Aspial Corporation’s planned 30 Albert Street residential tower is expected to be the tallest in Brisbane Photo: supplied

Community by community, Australia’s capitals are facing the decision of whether to grow up or grow out.

As populations increase, city planners are working to increase population density in selected areas, but often face accusations of making blind “taller is best” decisions.

The Gold Coast has announced its plan to concentrate urban development in the new Southport CBD.

On Monday Brisbane City Council announced it would debate a development of a 91-storey “vertical village” in the CBD – the third building that will bump its head on Brisbane’s nominal ceiling height of 27 metres.

A forum titled “How are cities responding to urbanism?” will be held at Brisbane’s Customs House on September 1, attracting two of the world’s most influential thinkers on tall buildings to Brisbane.

One of the international guest speakers is Ahmad Abderlrazaq, project director of the world’s tallest building – Burj Kalifa – in downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The second international speaker is Carol Willis, director of New York City’s Skyscraper Museum; who will talk about the world trend towards “super-slim” towers.

Brisbane’s Renaye Peters, the former chair of the Queens Wharf Precinct, property development manager at Brisbane Airport Corporation, a member of the Urban Land Development Authority and most recently a director at architect’s Conrad Gargett will moderate the morning sessions on Australian case studies.

“The symposium is about densification of our cities,” Ms Peters said.

“We believe it is time to have a mature discussion on the challenges of the growth of our urban areas,” she said.

“And how our buildings respond and how our built environment responds.”

“The discussion that we have formed with a range of other speakers is around ‘How do our cities respond’ in a way that makes them liveable and affordable,” she said.

“Some of the great cities around the world have great density, but they are still affordable and they are still liveable.”

Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Graham Quirk in March 2013 said Brisbane needed to review its “ceiling height” of 279 metres, calling for authorities to change the angle flights could arrive in and out of Brisbane’s airport.

Cr Quirk – trying to encourage greater density – argued raising the height limit from 279 metres to 300 metres allowed “six extra storeys and an extra $624 million in high rise investment in inner-city Brisbane.”

Brisbane has over the past five years begun this debate, with new urban areas at South Brisbane’s Kurilpa Point, the new Queens Wharf precinct being planned and the increasing density of the Brisbane CBD now more obvious.

Increasing city density will make a future underground rail system more viable and the range of debate on how to help fund this infrastructure.

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