Photo: Karleen Minney
What makes a city great?
It's a question being asked not just in Canberra but around the world, as nations grapple with the fact that 5 billion people - 60 per cent of the world's population - will live in urban areas by 2030.
Canberra's growth over the next 20 years will result in our population exceeding 420,000 people. How we manage that growth - and how we capitalise on the opportunities this growth presents - is up to us.
Global management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company has recently published ''How to Make a City Great'', a paper which synthesises analysis, case studies and interviews with mayors in more than 30 cities.
The report reveals three things that cities can do to secure a bright future: achieve smart growth; do more with less; and win support for change.
Achieving smart growth means identifying and nurturing the very best opportunities to expand a city, planning for future demand, integrating environmental thinking and ensuring that all citizens benefit from a city's prosperity.
Doing more with less requires a city to explore innovative investment partnerships, embrace technology, eliminate duplication and prudently manage expenses.
And winning support for change, while not always easy, demands that every opportunity is seized to forge strong engagement with the public and business community, and that city-level governments deliver results swiftly. The report reminds us that, whatever their starting positions, cities can change, pointing to Singapore's rise from a colonial harbour to a world-class hub in just a few decades, and New York's turnaround from its reputation as a crime-riddled relic of history.
Canberrans are fortunate to live in a young, vibrant city bursting with potential. Canberra is a place of optimism, discourse and debate. It is ripe with talented, educated people, is quick to adopt advances in technology, and is a great place to establish innovative industries in education and research. It is a city designed to set new standards in planning, development, industry and liveability.
As we celebrate Canberra's 100th birthday, it is also the right time to take stock of past wins and to acknowledge missed opportunities. Now is the time to share our big and bold ideas, outline our ambitious plans and take decisive action so that we create a city for the community and a capital for the nation.
The Property Council of Australia has produced a declaration for Canberra's centenary year which outlines six ideas, and many actions, to build our city's future. These include investment in infrastructure, securing a sustainable and liveable city, and reclaiming a vibrant city centre.
Other Australian cities are rising to the challenge. Brisbane City Council has changed the face of a city centre that was plagued by traffic, obsolete industry and urban decay. By establishing strong relationships with industry, the community, local business and government agencies, Brisbane has created new memorable destinations and dynamic retail, commercial, entertainment and arts precincts.
Newcastle's inner-city renewal is being given a turbo-boost with a new light-rail system, while another revitalisation project is resulting in bespoke boutiques, galleries and cultural projects popping up in vacant buildings.
The Melbourne City Council revitalised its CBD with a policy to encourage adaptive reuse of old industrial buildings into new residential spaces. By changing regulations, providing financial assistance and improving the street level environment, the policy expanded Melbourne's CBD population by more than 30,000 units in just 15 years.
It's no coincidence that, in our centenary year, many Canberrans are beginning to ask how we resuscitate the heart of our own city.
The Canberra Times' Emma Macdonald recently reminisced about a time, sadly long gone, when City Walk had "a bustling, almost European, air about it." Manny Notaras, chairman of Canberra CBD Ltd, reflected on the CBD's potential as the engine room of Canberra's economy.
A buzzing centre brings life to a city. It encourages investment and new business ventures. And it invites residents and visitors to enjoy and explore community. Civic is Canberra's heart. Strategically placed at one corner of the Parliamentary Triangle, Civic is the meeting place of national and community functions, the business core of the city and a focal point from which our other town centres radiate. It has all of the planning hallmarks of a vibrant world-class city centre.
The Property Council has identified three actions - developing a strategic master plan, establishing a civic development authority and encouraging adaptive reuse and renewal - to revitalise the heart of our city.
When the Commonwealth of Australia came into being on January 1, 1901, it was a time of big and bold ideas. The federation of the Australian colonies was a big idea. Announcing an international design competition was a bold idea. Building a city from a single foundation stone was a big and bold idea.
One hundred years on, there is still space in Canberra for big ideas and for those with the energy and drive to realise them. While we may not always agree, we must engage in an ongoing conversation about our city, and to embrace the big and bold ideas that will shape Canberra for the next 100 years.
Catherine Carter is ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia.