Harbinger Consultants

Creative Sustainability :: Place, People, Product, Potential, Partnership + Pollinating

IMAGINE | Thinking about my locality

by Linda Carroli

Over the past year, there have been regular reports in my local paper about the closure of QUT’s Carseldine campus. The decision has now been made and teaching will cease in 2009. This has apparently left QUT considering some options for use of the campus, of which it will retain possession and the option of reopening a campus in the future. For some time, the Ministerial Regional Community Forum has been aware of issues surrounding affordable office space for new and emerging small businesses, social enterprises, service organisations and community groups. This situation is apparently worse on the northside than on the southside of Brisbane.

Given this, the empty campus presents a marvellous opportunity to envisage some different futures for our suburb and to consider how the campus might be used to meet a number of local and regional needs. As the only significant social infrastructure in our area, the campus provides sporting facilities, walking tracks, bushland, library and other amenities to the community not provided for by government or the private sector.

There is an opportunity to marshal some energies to reshape this site and establish it as a hub, in partnership with local and state government. The Forum has noted that social and economic infrastructure and services in the northern suburbs, particularly along this northern corridor is weak. The SEQ Regional Plan is not strong in the provision of social infrastructure. Additionally, the state government announced that it would be building more major roads in the northern suburbs thus exacerbating the conditions for urban sprawl, bushland degradation and eroded social capital without any suggestion of mitigating the loss of amenity for residents.

So imaging a dynamic social, creative and community enterprise and urban planning and sustainable development hub that could include:

  • Establishment of new and emerging business hub that could feature innovative small enterprises, Indigenous business development, social enterprise and social innovation development
  • Establishment of the state government’s proposed Design Centre (or some of its activities as there is a theatre and A class gallery on site) to develop heightened awareness of environment, design, urban and architectural issues while also taking advantage of the campus’ transit orientation and linkage to further northern growth areas. It’s not a stretch to expect people to commute.
  • Accommodation for non-profit organisations as there is a chronic lack of suitable and affordable space in the north and clustering non-profit agencies could assist in the development of social infrastructure along the northern corridor into the new Moreton Bay Shire ideally these agencies could focus on recreation and sport, environment, social and community services and cultural activities.

So, I’ve been busily joining some dots … The campus’ proximity to the Chermside business node, currently undergoing significant development, makes this site a realistic proposition for small to medium for-profit and non-profit enterprise and service providers that don’t require location specific or centralised offices. Plus it sits between two very accessible local retail and business centres in Aspley and Taigum. The surrounding suburbs also probably hide many home based businesses and some might be coaxed out into the hub. The Department of Trade, Regional Development and Industry (formerly State Development) retains an office in Aspley.

It sometimes seems that the suburbs are omitted from the social, economic and cultural development equation and that very little is done to stimulate economic growth and creativity outside the urban centre. This sort of proposal presents an opportunity to change the way we plan for and think about the city’s suburbs and local economies.

Perhaps we might also take a look at Dutch organisation SpareSpace‘s work: “SpareSpace transforms empty shop and office buildings into mobile offices. SpareSpace offers beginning entrepreneurs in creative industries affordable and representative offices in an inspiring environment. As soon as the empty space is put up to let or for sale, the entrepreneurs will move to a new building.” In order to achieve this kind of flexibility, someone (government, the real estate/property industry body, a non-profit entity, or business development agency) has to be prepared to negotiate with property owners and developers as well as provide incentives.

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