A delivery and operating consortium for the Gold Coast Rapid Transit (GCRT) project has now been appointed. To harness one of the most significant committed public transport projects in the country, the Gold Coast City Council commissioned the GCRT Corridor Study to help maximise city wide economic, lifestyle and sustainability benefits.
The study aims to establish a shared vision and growth framework for this linear 2,000 hectares of the city’s most intensively populated and developed areas, including the iconic coastal strip and Surfers Paradise. The evolving shape of this area will define the image of the Gold Coast into the future and provide significant opportunities for sustainable infill development, underpinned by a world class public transport system.
Working closely with the Gold Coast City Council, the Hassell led team went beyond the traditional land use and urban design framework approach now typical to transport corridor planning. Critical questions were raised about the future urban structure, building form, planning controls and underpinning economic base of the city.
Polycentric form and network city structure
The polycentric form of the Gold Coast was seen as one of its greatest assets. Combined with a strong linear concentration of activities along the coast line, the city’s form offers particular opportunities for a highly effective public transport system linking centres and widespread opportunities for Transit Orientated Development. A latent ‘network city’ structure was contemplated to provide opportunities for compact urban living areas to be linked by rapid public transport to clusters of specialist economic activity, adding depth and diversity to the regional economy and enhancing accessibility across the city.
The study raises questions about the popular image of the Gold Coast as a high rise city, and explores opportunities to encourage more compact and affordable buildings. With typical building forms polarised at the high-rise and low-rise end of the spectrum, the team felt compelled to explore new building typologies that could promote greater diversity and accommodate growth without increasing heights. A speculative demonstration project was completed to explore the potential of the missing typology – the ‘subtropical mid-rise tower’.
‘Built form’ futures
Several corridor-wide ‘built form futures’ were modelled to stimulate discussion in stakeholder sessions. The team was challenged to explore ways to adjust planning and market settings to reduce the risk of excessive ‘tower crowding’ and its impact on views, micro climate, shadowing and liveability. Opportunities were explored to boost plot ratios while reviewing allowable heights – a combination of measures that could see medium-rise typologies increase in popularity through reduced construction costs, lower price points and a wider target market.
The study wrestles with the considerable challenge of integrating a transit system into the living urban environment and, as you would expect, contemplates radically different responses in each location as dictated by local context and circumstance.
While the project brief and methodology placed design at the heart of the process, a wider team of collaborators provided strategic economic and market advice (MacroPlan) and planning scheme implementation advice (John Gaskell Planning Consultants). The latest corridor access and mobility planning tools were imported from Europe by Aurecon and adapted to the Australian context to inform public realm priority action plans to support access to the rapid transit system.