By Nicole Donnison, Principal.
In my role as Principal at kinetica, and a place specialist, I love a parklet as much as the next person. The opening up of our local centres to activation and interaction on the street, punctuated with bright and playful design, moveable furniture and street art, is a welcome investment in our neighbourhoods and will ultimately drive revitalisation of our centres.
The narrative of local streets as ‘hubs for community’ has been supported by seemingly fast-tracked ‘red tape cutting’ planning processes. This has seen the likes of place innovation such as the Office of Suburban Development Activity Centre Renewal Fund; the Wyndham parklet program; and the Maribyrnong’s West Footscray Pop Up Park are other game changing decisions in ‘real time’.
In my mind, this represents Phase 1 in our post-COVID response and a desire for an enduring movement of ‘localisation’. So, if this is Phase 1, the question should be, ‘what’s next’? Where should our mid-term response be focussed?
At kinetica we believe that Phase 2 should focus on strategy and investment in ‘Work Near Home’ infrastructure – networks of decentralised spaces where we can ‘work locally’ all the while maintaining a critical mass of people in our centres to drive the vibrancy that the current place activations will rely on once life starts to “open up” again.
As we begin to contemplate the future of work in our post COVID reality, many of us will be weighing up the trade-off’s that we have offset by working from home, and how we can maintain these personal and professional “wins” into the future.
As a community we need clear policy focus and investment from State and Local Government to ensure appropriate spaces are supported (existing) and created (new). The concept of ‘Work Near Home’ must enable remote working close to our neighbourhood centres. This would result in local based revitalisation in the form of a ‘new economy’ of remote workers that drive investment in the local economy and grow opportunities for enterprise and innovation in ways that have been previously contained to innovative spaces in or near CBD’s worldwide.
Best practice examples from around Australian provide guidance as to how we can advance the ‘Work Near Home’ agenda from a land use and activation perspective, in ways that support organisations of various scale and are responsive to the ‘geographic’ footprint of their workers:
- The Local Office, Manly provides a secure, networked offsite co-working space for employer tenants of the Barangaroo International Towers that is central to a large portion of the workforce, reduces the CBD commute, and maintains a collaborative rhythm for work. This presents a model for our Docklands, Southbank, or Spring Street (Government) precinct employers to explore and create a mutually beneficial activation model from CBD to local centre.
- Hub Australia provides three co-working spaces across Melbourne’s CBD catering for entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and corporate teams. Expansion beyond the immediate CBD could present a potential ‘spoke and hub’ model of networked co-working Hubs across suburban Melbourne, possibly based in Principal Activity Centres or renewal precincts.
- Space Cubed is an innovative collaboration and co-working space in Perth that supports ‘changemakers’, ‘start ups’, ‘entrepreneurs’ and business in a member-activated model. This presents a model for innovation & collaboration in precincts that benefit from direct investment facilitation and high accessibility including Precinct renewal or LXRA precinct projects.
To enable ‘Work Near Home’ policy makers and planners must consider key place essentials:
What type of spaces do we need?
Curated public and private workspaces that enable collaboration within a co-working context.
Membership based, networked spaces with a co-operative outlook (what value can members leverage to support each other?)
Industry or Business exclusive spaces (think big corporates or Government Departments co-working in a ‘non-CBD’ environment).
Mixed design and layout to accommodate open plan, small meeting & thinking spaces, quiet spaces and loud spaces, individuals or small group working, supported by fixed and flexible furniture.
Inviting spaces with colour and greenery that inspire and invigorate us throughout our “shift”.
Opportunities for socialisation amongst the user network.
What locational requirements should be met?
Walkable, bikeable, public transport based or “short driveable” spaces, local to home.
Mixed use environments close to coffee and amenities ie post office, bank, shops, a lunch bar / cafe for “offsite meetings”, a plaza or public space.
Co-location with retail spaces to bring a diversity of user to centres.
High speed internet connection.
Where should investment be directed?
Supporting COVID-safe (re-)design and operational models.
Reimaging public buildings to accommodate co-working infrastructure for local people.
Seeding business in the co-working economy.
Integration in Major Projects (new builds) rather than ‘retrofitting’ after the fact.
DJPR / VPA Urban Renewal Precincts
LXRA New Station Precincts
Reflecting on my personal experience, work from home has been both fantastic and tumultuous; required incredible adaptability of space (often daily due to the demands of other family members); and has demanded the utmost self-discipline in the face of the “enticing whitegoods” (..‘hmm I could just pop another load of washing on’…’or open the fridge again…’). I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience. Throw in nearly 2 terms of home schooling a pre-schooler and a Grade 1, and well some days it has felt less like ‘work from home’ and more like ‘making it work from home’ (although Mark Woodland’s definition of work from home as “sleeping in the office” might be more accurate for many of us).
For me, and many others, I suspect ‘Work Near Home’ will be the best solution to maintain the benefits of flexible work, while mitigating the issues of inadequate dedicated space to work, the feelings of isolation when working on your own all day, and the loss of energy that collaborative environments generate.
I welcome a second wave of place investment that will support ‘Work Near Home’ in our local centres as a mid-term policy response. And if I can ‘Work Near Home’ and enjoy a coffee in parklet while sitting on a milk crate, then even better!
kinetica is actively working on government led precinct renewal projects, activity centre structure plans and municipal liveability strategies, that advance strategies for ‘working locally’ as a key element of place activation in our neighbourhoods.