Not sure what placemaking is?

As Cara Courage, Collaborate Creative Placemaker puts it in her Ted Talk here, “Placemaking is a set of tools and it’s an approach, to putting the community right at the front and centre of changes to where they live.”

I recently spent the day with UDIA Victoria’s Building, Design & Public Realm Committee on a tour of Melbourne’s west, visiting the following projects:

  • Woodlea (VIP & Mirvac joint venture)
  • Harpley (Lendlease)
  • Point Cook Town Centre (Development Victoria, Stockland, Walker Corporation)
  • Soho Village (Empire Properties with Clarke Hopkins Clarke)
  • Williams Landing (Cedar Woods)
  • Williams Bay (Stonehenge)

It was a unique opportunity to learn how investment in the public realm can help differentiate your development in a challenging market. And was a great opportunity to experience developments that have invested in public spaces to create people-centred places, and learn from their challenges and successes in building environments to foster greater human interaction.

One thing that struck me during the full-day tour was the feeling that project marketers may not necessarily be across the placemaking process and vision. I’m almost certain I was the only marketer on the tour, and listening to the placemaking experts completely changed my strategy on how I would approach briefing a project to a creative agency to launch it to market. I realised this intel combined with developing a value proposition is vital to marketers’ arsenals.

The role of urban design in improving health and wellbeing, and building spaces for the community, shouldn’t be lost in messages of ‘now selling’ and ‘buy now’.

Here are three of my key takeaways from the tour:

  • Confidence in the value of amenity. In the case of Woodlea, it was a 15-year process to obtain planning permits. This time allowed for meticulous planning and a strong project vision, resulting in one of the state’s most successful projects. The sales forecast was overachieved, and amenity was brought forward and delivered ahead of schedule – solidifying consumer confidence even more in the project. And did you know that each homesite is within 200m walking distance to a park?
  • It’s all about balance, and innovation. In all projects there was a theme of finding a balance between the natural habitat and human habitat; while also being innovative. Some projects drew inspiration from overseas, like Soho Village’s European-style plaza, coming to life at night with a community centred around a village lifestyle; complete with wine bar!
  • Include the right people in the conversation early. At Harpley, Lendlease developed a strong relationship with the Wadawurrung people in the initial planning phase, to incorporate indigenous knowledge systems to create the Harpley Discovery Trail – really showcasing the natural heritage of the land. There was also a common thread amongst the projects of collaborating with council early on, to understand intentions, get buy-in and feedback and for overall mutual benefit of creating successful communities that people would be proud to live in.

Other than becoming another Live. Work. Play catchcry on a piece of collateral, developers – when you engage your design consultants, bring your marketers to the table early on so they can bring to life the placemaking vision in the project brand and its messages throughout the entire lifespan of the project.