Ruminating on locked out cities

A couple of weeks ago an article I wrote with Professor Andrew May on urban regulation and specifically the lockout laws appeared in The Conversation. It provoked a strong reaction across social media and also in private correspondence. Our critics accused us of being libertarians due to our questioning of regulation and indifferent to the public health of the community. Others have appreciated the historical perspective that we offered. We treated the lockout laws as a lens through which to consider some of the nuances of how regulation actually operates in cities, suggesting that it invariably impacts urban life—whether for better or worse. The broader point was that

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555 Collins Street, Melbourne

Every few months tensions flare at Collins Street, Melbourne as the latest development proposal is floated. Once again, the Victorian Planning Minister has intervened at Collins Street. This time to prevent the construction of an 82-storey skyscraper opposite the Rialto Towers at King and Collins Street. As journalist Clay Lucas relays, this is a story of political intrigue, a web involving developers, financiers, and both major political parties–quite typical for Collins Street. In this case, we Melburnians might stop for a moment to reflect on the past in order to look forward. After all, the skyscraper proposal–which echoes the Rialto Towers–is for Enterprise House at 555 Collins Street: an important address for Melbourne.

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A historical rumination on heritage advocacy

A few days ago, tumultuous events played out at the National Trust of Victoria, as reported in the Age. Whilst the Trust often appears in print over its activism, rarely does the internal discontents of the organisation spill onto the pages of the city’s newspapers. Over the past few weeks, absent from this blog, I have been exploring how the Trust and various other advocacy and professional organisations campaigned federal, state and local governments for heritage legislation in the 1970s. What interests me particularly about the ‘showdown’ at the National Trust last week is how there has been much reference to

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Past Liberal ‘Ministers for Cities’

Last Sunday the new Turnbull Liberal Government made Jamie Briggs Minister for Cities. This marks the Liberal Party’s first positive intervention into the Australian city in almost five decades. In excellent articles Liam Hogan and Alan Davies as well as Malcolm Farr and Michael Bleby have many aspects of this appointment covered. After spending the last few months in the urban archives, it feels similar to when Tom Uren became ‘Minister for Cities’ under Gough Whitlam. The mood amongst urbanists and the wider community is hopeful yet cautious. Particularly because the Federal Liberal Party are often perceived as urban agnostics. So Turnbull’s appointment of Briggs seemingly takes on an added level of importance: the Liberal Party, Welcome to the City. Yet

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The 25,000 Square Metre Rule: An Obituary

Without warning last Friday at midnight the Victorian Government did away with the ‘25,000 square metre rule’ as it has been for the past 20 years. Especially undemocratic, this rule empowered the planning minister to approve any building with over 25,000 square metres of floor space without recourse to the local council or the community. It has had dramatic irreversible long-term impacts for Melbourne. This blog reflects on its history.

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Innovation and Reaction: What Would a Minister for Cities Be Good For?

Calls for an Australian Minister for Cities are becoming louder. Groups such as the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, the Australian Institute of Architects, Planning Institute of Australia, Property Council, Engineers Australia, Green Building Council of Australia, Council of Capital City Lord Mayors and a cross-party parliamentary friendship group for better cities have endorsed the proposal. Various commentators agree, some of whom are members of those groups. A consensus appears to be emerging that the Australian city requires federal intervention.

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Australia’s greatest urbanist: Hugh Stretton

The Australian City in History has yet to be written. If it were, there is one person that would loom large: Hugh Stretton. He died on 15 July 2015 after a long battle with illness, three days past his ninety-first birthday. There was a short obituary in the Adelaide Advertiser and his personal friend economist Geoff Harcourt wrote a touching tribute: ‘I doubt that we shall see his like again.’

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Torch the House! Gough Whitlam’s Ngara.

No Australian Federal Government did more for urban heritage than Gough Whitlam’s. Yet his childhood home, called Ngara, faces demolition any day now, at the tail end of an urban heritage conflict. A few weeks ago the Heritage Council of Victoria decided that Ngara was not of state heritage significance. Located in the inner eastern suburb of Kew, the house was built by Whitlam’s grandfather. Whitlam was born there and lived there for 18 months. For the heritage council, this was an insufficient basis to require preservation. The saga over Ngara is not entirely over. The local Boroondara Council might

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Regenerating heritage at Melbourne’s Rialto

The Rialto precinct in Melbourne is undergoing another facelift in the coming months. The Age reported last week that at the corner of Collins and King streets a new wraparound 5-story glass and steel office block would soon be built, adjoining the Rialto Towers. As this part of the Melbourne CBD has been a research interest of mine for a while, I’ve been following this development with interest. The commentary was accepting of the proposal. Fronting more of the Rialto Towers onto King Street is part of the renewal of the area. 

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On the road

Despite my intentions, this blog has not progressed much since January. Unsurprisingly, I became caught up in my literature review, seminars, and other activities required during the first six months of my PhD. Fortunately over the past few weeks, I’ve begun original research on Australian urban heritage, and written a draft of my first PhD chapter. I’ve been tweeting regularly. It is now time to return to this blog.

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