looking up sydney cbd city towers
Things are looking up for CBD’s across Australia. Image – Canva.
  • PCA and EY release CBD revival plans including free transport and parking for slow days
  • CBD recovery also needs to be flexible, only 3.3 days in the office are desired by workers
  • Most people are confident in a return, 82% say the CBD will evolve

The ongoing stretches of ‘for lease’ signs in Australian CBDs don’t inspire confidence in many retailers, neither is it the warmest welcome back for office workers.

With COVID restrictions largely eased across the country, excepting occasional snap lockdowns, CBD workers and office vacancies have slowly seen some recovery.

A new report by The Property Council of Australia and Ernst & Young (EY) has laid out the roadmap for what they believe to be the best way forward for a CBD revival. The study comes as The Property Council continues its push for businesses and workers to return to the CBD.

Surveying 600 CBD users, the study found ‘flexibility’ was the main desire workers expressed. The preference is for 3.3 days per week in an office setting.

To put numbers to what we already know, the report found 61% of those surveyed have “spent less time in their nearest CBD since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Concurrently, 62% believe more will spend time in one’s own neighbourhood.

CBDs hold value in our hearts

The beating heart of a city has always seen the arts flourish, and other key activations such as cultural festivals. That value seems to have remained in many CBD workers’ hearts as 65% believe that the “CBD will continue to provide memorable experiences.”

“Our CBDs have been the nation’s productivity powerhouses for decades, but have been sorely challenged by COVID-19 shutdowns.

“As more workers return to CBD workplaces, it’s important to supercharge the revival of our CBDs to underpin economic recovery.”

Ken Morrison, Property Council of Australia Chief Executive

It’s also still seen as the place to meet for both small and large groups, (60% and 54% respectively) likewise for the eating out (67%), shopping (65%), and events and entertainment (63%).

Recipe for revival

The report included five key items to address, some of which the councils have already taken to task in broader aspirations for the growth, development, revitalisation of local government areas that include a CBD.

The five points are:

  1. Free public transport and parking on “slow days” (Monday and Friday),
  2. Facilitate more street activations, late-night shopping, and night markets are some examples provided,
  3. Reimagine unused spaces, including pop-up spaces,
  4. Accelerate greening of the CBD, and
  5. Offer commuters more “micro-mobility” solutions such as cycling, e-bikes, or scooters.

Street activations are something that will definitely be an interesting element to monitor.

The Property Tribune spoke with Dr Michael Cohen, an expert on placemaking (activations come under the topic of placemaking). Dr Cohen mentioned that over the past five to ten years, local governments have cut funding to activations significantly, leaving it to other organisations and corporate bodies to run them if they wished.

That trend has reversed somewhat with COVID but is not consistent across the board.

“We need to rethink quality and reimagine the workplace, introduce more green space, embrace future mobility, amplify our Brand Australia message and more.”

Ken Morrison, Property Council of Australia Chief Executive

Greening has been the charge of the City of Sydney and Melbourne lately, both embarking on multi-million dollar plans to green the CBD and surrounds; so far it is estimated to have broken the $500 million mark on the money spent on Sydney and Melbourne alone to green the cities.

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