I interviewed Project Director for Residential Development in Victoria, Ed Krushka, to discuss the importance of delivering key Hard Elements and how Stockland are doing it differently.
What drives your ‘vision’ for new communities?
Stockland’s overall purpose is to create ‘a better way to live’. Everything we do is underlined by this central ethos. We always try to exceed our own previous best performance benchmarks. The key is that we continue to innovate and lead the market..
How do you deliver on this mantra?
If we take the example of Cloverton, we believe the project delivery will be centred on four main principles that will guide us in each decision; a connected city; a clever city; a healthy city; and a progressive city.
Connected city means that we will work with government to establish strong transport links, both road and rail, with individual village precincts serviced by small retail hubs and we will also develop a major activity centre as the central heart of the community.
A clever city is based around a progressive, well-considered education strategy. It’s about how we can activate education at every stage, be it early learning, primary and secondary schools, or at the tertiary level.
To create a healthy city, we consider everything we can do to support and encourage good health and well-being amongst our thousands of future residents and visitors. We focus on providing structured walking tracks, quality open spaces, and we consider how these assets will be activated and embraced by the community to ensure constant use and activity. Creating a healthy city is a really good way of engaging the community and getting everyone involved.
Designing and building a progressive city is about how we look at innovation and the sustainability of a city-sized community. A key platform of a progressive city is unlocking the business potential in growth areas.
What partnerships help you deliver community services and facilities earlier?
Probably the best case we’ve had in recent times was Selandra Community Place born from Victoria’s Selandra Rise demonstration project.
This project had a number of partners, including PIA, GAA at the time, Casey City Council, Henley Homes, RMIT and the Heart Foundation. We constructed a house before our first residents moved in, which was able to be used as a community meeting space from day one. This needed commitment from all parties and importantly needed to be staffed from day one. Run through Casey City Council, anything from child health to yoga to cooking classes were held. It really is a good demonstration on how you can do something on a temporary basis at low cost to all parties before you develop a more permanent platform or facility.
At the moment we are exploring a partnership with a TAFE organisation looking at how we can have some kind of tertiary element available from day one that will develop as we progressively build the project.
We also work really hard to enlist the early support and involvement of relatively smaller players, such as the neighbourhood green grocer or corner store because it is often in the finer detail of such simple, everyday conveniences that the foundations of communities are laid. Providing these types of conveniences that people take for granted in more established areas is really important. It’s about reaching out to some of these organisations and giving them a helping hand to start their journey too.
Is it difficult to move communities from temporary facilities into permanent ones years later?
There might be a little bit of attachment at first but I think that the important thing is you’ve already got a community engaged; you’re not building a facility and waiting for that to flourish. So I think that’s one of the advantages of developing something temporary, the residents can start to shape what the new community centre will become. The learnings and the uses developed within a temporary facility are really important to guide the design of the permanent centre.
What drives your decisions to deliver high quality sports facilities?
We have found that sport, health and well-being are the things that really bring a community together, so we invest heavily
in that. We see a key element on all our projects is getting quality green space in early.
At Cloverton for example, we initially looked at gaps in the market and felt a lot could be done around amenity and getting that in early. We are continuing to innovate as we go, however, importantly, the partnerships need to be solidified early on. We’re fortunate to have established really strong working relationships with organisations such as the MPA and Heart Foundation, and we are able to test new ideas with such partners.
Having worked with a number of councils around Victoria, we’re learning about how centres evolve constantly. Many of the uses identified at a planning phase have continually evolved. We are continuously looking at how we can be adaptable to a growing population and changing needs within that community.
How do you deliver high quality sport facilities earlier?
Highlands is an example of how we pioneered partnerships with major sporting organisations. The partnership between Hume City Council, AFL Victoria and Stockland was key to delivering Highgate Recreation Reserve. These partnerships all came together to deliver a great outcome, but what we really learnt from this experience was when everyone signs onto an idea it can gain incredible momentum very quickly and assist in the formation of future partnership opportunities.
Again, taking this approach through our partnership with Hume City Council and Tennis Australia we were able to build the Hume Tennis and Community Centre. This facility has 16 high grade courts with the same surface as Melbourne Park and European Clay surfaces. The great thing is on the weekend all the tennis lessons and courts are fully utilised. This is a fantastic space which serves both the community and inspires sporting excellence.
We are now working towards a partnership with Hume City Council, Hockey Victoria and Lacrosse Victoria, expanding the sporting theme at Highlands to include hockey/lacrosse fields. This will secure three major sporting facilities for the Highlands community.
The quality facilities such as the Tennis Centre means the Highlands community will be able to host exhibition matches and high grade Tennis tournaments. Bringing people together through sports is one community place-making element, but there are also opportunities around the arts and culture space.
How do you maintain and deliver the initial vision of a greenfield site such as Cloverton over 30 years?
This is really important. One example of understanding our community needs is through our liveability survey each year which is benchmarked off the Deakin University Wellbeing Index. This is a good metric to say how our community is engaged and if we’re putting the right things on the ground or understand where the pinch points are. This helps us differentiate ourselves and put the right amenity on the ground.
What role does education play in growth areas?
Schools become that really good anchor for communities. This is something we put a lot of emphasis on, particularly in terms of how we can engage with the local principal to get the best outcomes possible. A really successful example was at our Highlands community, in nearby Craigieburn, where we had the local principal actually taking enrolments from our sales centre before the school was built. Our rapport with that principal flourished on to bigger things as we progressed and gave us an important leading ally within the community who was able to assist in the rapid formation of a school community, which grew and grew.
The important thing is around joint use agreements and how you can get the most out of all these buildings. The Highgate Reserve, which is a beautiful area in the middle of Highlands, anchors a lot of villages around it, but it has an education and early learning element as well as sporting and a passive recreation element.
How do you stimulate employment opportunities?
It’s up to us to start that journey around a progressive city using partnerships. For example, we are working towards a shared goal of seeing how we can get the most out of the NBN. We’re researching what partnerships, with organisations such as NBN Co., can facilitate more home offices and reduce the travel burden on people commuting to work daily.
How does Stockland adapt to changing trends in housing, lifestyle and aging communities?
As one of Australia’s largest residential property developers, Stockland creates different types of homes that appeal to the widest possible market from first home buyers and upgraders, to investors and downsizers. We also have a specific business that is dedicated to retirement living, and increasingly, we are co-locating our retirement living communities within our residential communities. We’re finding that many of our residential customers see it as an attractive option to have a nearby retirement village available for their parents to live. We are definitely looking strategically at where retirement living spaces are located, how over 55s utilise space and how we can help facilitate more convenient inter-generational living arrangements.
What community based strategies help you seed new communities?
Each year we award community grants to a number of local groups within each community, which I think is important.
We have additional activation elements once a community starts to develop, things like Parkrun and our Link & Learn Program, which focus on bringing small courses and education into growing communities. These work really well and are a terrific way to engage the community.
Highlands has the Farmers’ Market that runs every month and we’ve got night markets with market-style food halls, which are really good. There is no set criteria for each project, but that’s one way we try and get a number of different little elements going early.
I think the key for us is how we set a community up for success from day one. We believe in, and invest heavily in, elements that we accelerate the creation of strong, cohesive communities and it really pays to get community groups activated early, be it around sporting venues and events, environmental projects, or mothers’ groups; the important point is to bring people together who share common interests.
If you could change one thing about the way we currently create communities what would it be?
Stockland is a big believer in the importance of delivering thriving communities that offer the convenience of providing local access to schools, retail, healthcare and employment opportunities. We are advocating for a bigger focus on economic development and employment generation in the Growth Areas, really allowing people to live, work, and play in their community. I think there is a great opportunity to work with both State and Local Government to attract new businesses to the growth areas Melbourne. We are the World’s most liveable city!