Award-winning design, planning and placemaking practice Hatch RobertsDay has revealed five low-cost ways to rejuvenate urban communities across Australia.

According to Hatch RobertsDay, some low-cost, small-scale, temporary and flexible interventions can help catalyse significant changes for local communities, as inexpensive solutions lay the foundation for long-term strategies before a major investment.

Working with landscape architecture consultancy Turf Design, Hatch RobertsDay had created a place plan for Queanbeyan CBD, a riverside town on the NSW-ACT border, in response to a tender issued by the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council last year for expertise in place design, economic revitalisation and activation.

The Place Plan Report by Hatch RobertsDay and Turf Design won the tender with its ideas for temporary public art events, pop-up eateries and stores, moveable furniture, vertical plant screens, native plants, and walking trails to highlight the uniqueness of precincts. The ideas demonstrated that future neighbourhoods required the flexibility for their public spaces to be adapted as needed, but in a low-cost way.

“The practice of placemaking should have a focus on people and great places,” says Angela Koepp, national place leader and principal at Hatch RobertsDay. However, successful outcomes depend upon the ability to demonstrate the social, environmental, economic and cultural benefits it provides to a community, she added.

“Small-to-medium interventions that are affordable yet have a high short-term impact can create a strong sense of community. This is how we approached our recommendations for the Queanbeyan CBD Place Plan. We want the transformation of the CBD to remain relevant for years to come.

“Our ‘tactical urbanism’ approach on this project can provide a great example for future communities that require flexibility in public spaces. These low-cost, small-scale interventions can be the launching pad for larger, more long-term work when combined with permanent additions, and provide a less expensive means to achieving the same goal of a successful urban environment. This will be a key consideration for many local councils after the pandemic.”

Hatch RobertsDay’s 5 low-cost ideas for improving Queanbeyan CBD: 

1. Create public art events in vacant spaces.

Public art events are an excellent platform for boosting social interaction among local communities. These events are temporary, quickly changeable, and flexible enough to be held in any vacant space. In its place plan for Queanbeyan CBD, for instance, Hatch RobertsDay identified free parking lots as an ideal location for public art events. By transforming parking lots into mixed-use spaces, the problem of oversupply of parking spaces in the CBD will be addressed.

2. Enable local businesses to boost their presence with pop-up outlets.

Councils could allow local businesses to install pop-ups on main streets during community event days to increase their foot traffic and allow them to generate further revenue. In Queanbeyan, for instance, the Leagues Club experiences lower foot traffic and revenue during Canberra Raiders’ game days. Hatch RobertsDay suggested that the Club be allowed to have a street dining pop-up during events.

3. Install vertical greening systems and tree clusters.

Vertical green walls on buildings not only add to visual appeal but also provide immense environmental benefits. Climbing vegetation combined with an abundance of trees contributes to the aesthetics, shading and cooling of a building and its surrounds, creating more habitable spaces for the community to socialise. There are health benefits too, with the greenery minimising air and noise pollution, and encouraging environmentally conscious living.

4. Introduce movable furniture.

Communities need flexible public spaces that quickly adapt to on-site community events using low-cost solutions such as moveable furniture, mobile parklets and portable libraries. Such public spaces allow the community to shape the environment and alter space configurations to suit their needs, while encouraging more people to enjoy the outdoors. This idea has been successfully implemented at Bryant Park in New York City where moveable furniture such as outdoor tables and chairs fill the space during the warmer months, enabling the community to congregate in the sun. The park is transformed into a winter wonderland during the cooler months.

5. Highlight the area’s unique point of difference through walking trails.

The best way to discover a place is on foot. Walking trails, for instance, allow people to connect with the history and culture of an area, showcase the local ecology, and encourage physical activity for a healthier lifestyle. Queanbeyan CBD, which is located on the banks of the Queanbeyan River, provides active and passive recreational spaces for walking, cycling, kayaking, fishing and resting, encouraging both workers and residents to use it more.

These ideas identified by Hatch RobertsDay in their Place Plan Report will be implemented by the Council through tenders in a staggered process.