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Subi East is one of the most significant urban redevelopment projects undertaken in Western Australia by the WA State Government through DevelopmentWA – the state’s land and property development agency.

The project will see the creation of an exciting new north-eastern gateway for Subiaco, one that respects and reflects the rich heritage of the area while realising the importance of its prominent location right on the edge of Perth’s CBD. Importantly, the project will help breathe new life into this approximately 35 hectares corner of Subiaco by delivering vibrant new places for people to live, learn, work and play. Read more about the Subi East Draft Master Plan here.

Recently, we sat down with Shannon O’Shea, Associate Director at Hames Sharley who worked on the Draft Master Plan. Here’s what she had to say about the strategic vision for Subiaco over the next 20 years.

1) How and when did you get involved with the project?

The Request for Proposal was issued by DevelopmentWA in September 2019 seeking the appointment of a leading and innovative Urban Design/Planning/Architecture Consultant team to deliver the Subi East Master Plan.

This was the first jointly delivered urban renewal project by ‘DevelopmentWA’ – the merger of LandCorp and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA).

Through a national selection process, the intention was to bring together the best skills and processes to achieve an exemplary outcome. The Hames Sharley team was appointed in November 2019 in the role of ‘Lead Consultant’ for delivery of the master plan.

2) Are you able to provide a brief overview of your scope and plans for Subi East?

As one of the most significant urban redevelopment projects of its type undertaken in Perth, Subi East knits together a mix of sub-precincts incorporating the former Princess Margaret Hospital, land around Subiaco Oval, the new Bob Hawke College, and Mueller Park together with West Leederville train station and the surrounding railway reserve land. This presents the opportunity to create a thriving and connected inner-city hub.

The project has been undertaken in phases - the first phase, the Vision Concept Plan released in February 2019, supported the delivery of the Business case which underpinned a decision by the State Government on the project scope and level of investment needed. The Hames Sharley team was tasked with undertaking a 360 review of this Plan which formed the basis for preparation of the Master Plan – phase 2.

The revitalisation of Subiaco East is intended to set a new direction for inner-city living, drawing from the strong local character and delivering new housing opportunities. Working in collaboration with a team of consultants, Hames Sharley lead the delivery of the Master Plan and stakeholder and community engagement, with an emphasis on achieving locally-driven place and design outcomes that honour ancient songlines and modern-day experiences.

3) What do you hope to achieve through design for the area?

The Project’s strategic location on the edge of the city has the potential to deliver significant urban renewal, and transit-oriented development opportunities including residential, recreation and community use supporting adjacent retail and commercial centres in Subiaco, West Leederville and West Perth.

The character, streetscapes and eclectic blend of housing styles and sizes together with access to a broad range of amenities within a walkable neighbourhood environment are elements that have continued to attract and keep Subiaco high on the ‘desirability radar’ as a place to live, work and relax. Understanding of the public realm qualities that contribute to the areas attractive, safe, and comfortable environments will be central to the success of the Subi East Master Plan.

The Subi East Master Plan creates the opportunity to provide housing options for multigenerational living. Targeting a wider spectrum addresses both the ageing population trend as well as the anticipated increase in teens and their families with the opening of Bob Hawke College.

4) Why do you think Subiaco needs a project like this?

Living under Covid-19 restrictions for the past several months has brought sharply into focus the need to develop places that people want to be in and places that can enrich lives. This requires a very holistic and ‘smart’ approach with the human experience at its core.

In this context, connection is vital on many levels: to enable seamless access to life’s necessities; to encourage social interaction and build communities; and to reduce the impact of our footprint on the planet - ultimately contributing our community, social, environmental and economic sustainability long term.

5) What have been some of the challenges and opportunities with the project so far?

The planning and the associated community engagement for the Subi East project have been extensive since the project commenced in early 2018. The approach in the early stages established a clear vision and project pillars.

To understand the future potential for Subi East Master Plan; stakeholder and community engagement continued in the first half of 2020 through a series of five monthly interactive Community Reference Group workshops, and with the general community via a custom-built online engagement tool Sensemaker. Midway through this process circumstances of COVID-19 which denied face to face contact challenged the team to seek alternative mediums for engagement.

Working in collaboration with the DevelopmentWA engagement team, this provided the opportunity to seek out the best in the field to recraft an online engagement program. Drawing on AUDRC’s (The Australian Urban Design Research Centre) experience, an online collaborative design activity combined with the distribution of individuals
replica physical models provided members with the opportunity to engage meaningfully in the spatial challenges. The value of this process enabled the reference group to walk in the shoes of the design professionals, building greater understanding of site constraints and trade-offs, while also building trust within the master planning process. As a result, the general patterns of development produced by the Reference Group indicated a close alignment with the final draft Master Plan.

Further to this experience, Covid-19 restrictions emphasised the benefits of walkable neighbourhoods. People were rediscovering their local areas, and we saw increased use of local parks and streets for daily exercise. They also realised we might not need to travel into work every day—with the added benefit of saving a lot of time by not commuting and valuing more of the benefits of our local communities.

This supports the concept of the 20-minute neighbourhood based on the idea that people can access daily goods and services—shopping, education, business services, employment, community facilities—from within 20 minutes of their home, whether it be by walking, cycling or a safe public transport option.

Subi East is in a prime location to create a place that people want to be in and one that enriches lives, allowing future residents to live locally with seamless connections to all of life’s necessities—healthcare, education, retail, commercial, and recreational and community facilities, and in harmony with nature.

6) Expected completion and what you hope the project will bring to Subiaco once it’s completed?

The Subi East vision identifies that the project area can accommodate at least 2,000 new dwellings over the next 30 years. It is anticipated that the new precinct will play a significant role in meeting the future housing needs of the community as outlined in Perth and Peel @ 3.5 million and the City of Subiaco’s planning framework.

Building on its unique setting, Subi East will reflect and celebrate the rich heritage and history of the area, and the role it has played in the lives of generations of Western Australians. Dual cultural narratives of indigenous and non-indigenous history will be embedded throughout the project. It will be cognisant of the local character and charm of Subiaco, incorporating key design elements into the redevelopment that pay homage to the heritage and character of the area. The stories and heritage of the Whadjuk people will also be recognised and shared throughout Subi East, reflecting their ancient connection to the area. The Cultural Context and Place Narrative have formed
the foundation for the development of the Master Plan.

Thinking about the future audience of the Subi East precinct and the related attributes provides a unique insight into how people may use the future sites. Therefore, we need to make housing options available for families and young professionals to live in these neighbourhoods—and at the other end of the spectrum enable older people to age in place. Providing places and spaces from a human perspective, thinking about the people who will come to live, work and visit the area has ultimately informed the strategic direction and framework of the Subi East Master Plan.

Shannon O’Shea, Associate Director

Shannon O’Shea, Associate Director

Working across a range of residential, town centre and mixed-use projects, Shannon has played a central role working with leading multi-disciplinary teams. She has dealt with complex urban environments to enable creative and functional design solutions, reflecting a local sence of place.