There’s a buyer ‘hook’ for real estate advertisements that’s drawing crowds: use the word “village”, over and over again! In an increasingly global world it seems the appeal of a small, friendly community is growing enticement for home-buyers who’ve tired of anonymous streets and shopping mega-centres. While the traditional villages had a town hall, church and a village green, Brisbane’s residents are more likely to seek out spots with a choice of sidewalk cafes, bars and boutique shopping (or at least the big brands that feel boutique). In truth of course most don’t really want to get to know their neighbours that well, but they love the idea of living in a place with a strong sense of community. And they want to be within walking distance of all this.
We’d suggest the ‘social glue’ in the more successful village atmospheres in Brisbane is a number of workplaces in each neighbourhood’s core. Planners refer to the “18 hour day”, with the buzz of workers keeping the place alive by day and the energy of crowds dining and socialising by night. And a recent announcement by the Queensland Government may be about to give this a kick along. By 2017 20% of the Government’s CBD office space, and around 5,600 public servants, will be moved out of the city centre. While easing pressure on roads and public transport it’ll also give many employees the opportunity to work closer to home. (Not to mention the $188million taxes we’ll save through cheaper rents.) Inner city areas proposed to house the new offices include Bowen Hills and Buranda/Boggo Rd.
If people want to live, work and play in the one village area then bringing workplaces back to the suburbs makes sense. Especially with communications technology the way it is – do offices need to bundled near eachother? Why couldn’t more neighbourhood shops have offices above? And why couldn’t they be 5-10 storey buildings, with local amenity all within walking distance?
And the other big benefit is health. Increasing levels of ‘walkability’ in a neighbourhood decrease the risks of excess weight. According to a study reported in a recent American Journal of Preventive Medicine, if you double the proportion of neighbourhood residents walking to work it decreases an individual’s risk of obesity by almost 10%. A return to village living, with shaded footpaths and pedestrian-friendly design might be just what we need. Then at least we might get out and walk to the local hamburger restaurants!