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Connecting people and places: How precincts can improve how we live

Connecting people and places: How precincts can improve how we live

Building precincts is a hot topic around the world, with cities reshaping their urban centres to be better connected. They have the potential to bring many benefits to communities. Precincts are areas that are designed to be vibrant and attractive places that unite people where they can live, work, and play in one area. By focusing on connectivity, well-designed precincts can create a sense of place and belonging, and they can also help to drive economic growth. They can provide you with more opportunities for jobs and education, a better quality of life, and a stronger sense of community.

That’s what makes precincts special. But what exactly is a precinct and why does it matter to you?

What is a precinct?

A precinct is like a city within a city. The word "precinct" comes from the Latin word "praecincia" meaning "boundary" or "district".

A precinct is a place where you can find many things in one spot, like shops, houses, transport, parks, and fun activities. You can find these areas in both cities and the countryside. They are usually close to the city centre or big places like schools and hospitals. Governments or private companies can own and run precincts. Precincts can be big or small, with different types of businesses and organisations. Some have different focuses, like technology or health, but the goal of these areas is to have seamless connections between people and places, fostering a cohesive and vibrant community experience.

The Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct is a unique global business location for high-tech industry development, research collaboration, and jobs of the future. It is a vibrant mixed-use community in which to live, work, study, and play. The precinct is home to a diverse range of businesses and organisations, from technology start-ups to healthcare providers, all of which are working together to create a better future for the region and the world.

Precincts connect places and spaces

Precincts make life better in many ways. They provide easy access to work, school, healthcare, entertainment, culture, and shopping. This makes it easier to get around without spending a lot of time and energy commuting.

Queensland’s very own South Bank is a vibrant precinct, located on the banks of the Brisbane River. There are many things to do in the one place. You can visit the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, South Bank Parklands, cafes, restaurants and museums. South Bank is a favourite spot for locals and tourists. It is also where many people live, and is connected to other inner-city precincts, like Queens Wharf and West End.

Precincts foster community bonds

Building a precinct involves more than bricks and mortar. Precincts can help us feel more connected and part of a group in a world that can often feel disconnected. The concentration of people in a centralised area creates opportunities for social interaction, collaboration, and shared experiences. Public spaces like parks, squares, and community centres can bring people together, and that’s part of what precincts deliver.

Federation Square in Melbourne is a place where different communities come together to enjoy culture, arts, and life. There are many fun events, art exhibits, and entertainment choices available. It brings people together in happiness and pride by sharing experiences.

Panoramic view of Federation Square on 2015 in Melbourne. It is a mixed-use development in the inner city of Melbourne, covering an area of 3.2 hectares.

Precincts help the economy

Precincts are attractive for investors and can make a lot of money. A Brookings Institution study in 2018 found that combining businesses, shops, and entertainment in one place can be very successful. Some have been found to make around $100 million a year.

Precincts can also create hundreds, even thousands, of new jobs, reducing unemployment rates. It gives people a chance to work close to home and helps the area become more successful. Take Central Park in Sydney, for instance. This area mixes homes, shops, and parks all together and has helped the local economy grow a lot. It's more than a spot on a map; it's a big part of the local economy. There are many new jobs and clever companies thanks to the precinct approach.

Central Park has the world’s largest vertical gardens designed and a green, eco-friendly mixed-use dual high-rise building

Precincts can breathe life into untapped areas

Do you want to live in or visit a dull, unused place or a lively area that attracts investment and brings life to the community?

Precincts have the remarkable ability to revitalise once forgotten spaces. Historical landmarks can become beautiful again. Tall buildings can rise and new areas for enjoying nature can appear. Precincts look beautiful at night, like it's dressed up for the party of making things better. That is what precinct-building can do.

The Distillery District in Toronto is a cool place to see old buildings turned into homes. They used to be factories long ago, but the area is now homes, shops, and parks. Today, it stands as a testament to the transformative potential of precinct-building. The cobblestone streets are full of art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and theatres. The whole district is alive with activity. The city is now a lively cultural hub that brings in visitors, helps the economy, and has a special feel to it.

People walking on the cobblestone laneways by the boutiques, galleries, cafés and restaurants of the historic Distillery District in downtown Toronto, Canada

Precincts need to be well-designed

Good precincts should be designed with everyone in mind. Consulting the community and others during the planning is important. It helps make the place meet community needs. When everyone is involved, they become proud of the area.

Northshore in Brisbane is a great example of this. Much of the area has been redeveloped into a waterfront haven that is a vibrant place for people to live, work and have fun. Over the next 30 years, the precinct will continue to grow with a focus on important areas such as transportation, public spaces, First Nations storytelling, diverse housing, sustainable design, and places for art and culture.

Precincts can pave the way to sustainability

Modern buildings need to cater for growth and be eco-friendly. City planners can help save resources and control urban growth by reshaping compact areas rather than spreading out. Plus, we take care of the environment by using green buildings, renewable energy and making sure our precincts have sustainable transportation options like good walkways and bike-friendly infrastructure.

Take Newstead and the surrounding areas, where both liveability and sustainability take centre stage. The precincts succeed in sustainability because it has good access to walkways, bike-riding, bus stops and river ferries. Many of the buildings use sustainable building practices, like solar panels, energy efficient aspects, and rainwater harvesting. But the area also provides many homes, businesses, and entertainment and lifestyle options.

Precinct planning and building is complex

Precincts don’t get planned and built overnight. When designing neighbourhoods, we need to consider different things such as making sure everyone feels included, having the right facilities available, caring about the environment, connecting with others, and staying safe.

The community needs to know that growth and betterment come with disruption. As cities get bigger, we can make better things to help us live and work. Making new parts of cities needs good planning, money, building, and time. During construction, there may be noise, traffic, and closed roads, which can be frustrating in the short term. But short-term disruption means your community is getting better for the long term.

Last updated: 29 Jun 2023