Selling the city : retail planning and Central Melbourne
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required
This thesis investigates the effects that recent economic and political changes in Melbourne have had on the practice of strategic urban planning. In particular, it focuses on the multiple challenges of inter-city competition, academic critique and neo-liberalism have had on the practice of planning, through a case study, that of planning for retailing within the central city. Public sector planning has been subject to many pressures and challenges in recent years. The notion that cities are competing with each other for the attraction of mobile capital has led to pressure on planning to remove regulatory requirements. The urban agenda of many cities has become dominated by entrepreneurial strategies focusing on large scale projects and events, around which city marketing campaigns are run. The adoption of neo-liberal economic policies reached its height in Victoria under the Kennett Government, during the years 1992 to 1999. Neo-liberal styles of governance are essentially at odds with public planning, concerned as it is with directing investment and shaping development in the urban environment in pursuit of some conception of the collective good. This study shows how the adoption of the neo-liberal agenda in Melbourne has affected both the ability of planners to plan, and the range of policy choices available to them. The current climate of inter-city competition and urban entrepreneurialism focuses particularly on the promotion of central cities as the sites for both investment and consumption. Within this city retailing has a critical role to play both as a symbol of economic success and desirable lifestyle. Yet there has been a persistent discourse within Melbourne that the metropolitan area will develop an urban form similar to that seen in many cities within the US. In this scenario retailing within the CBD will inevitably decline under competition from suburban shopping malls, which will ultimately result in a doughnut-shaped city with an empty centre. Without an economically viable retail sector the central city would be reduced merely to its business function threatening its cultural, social and symbolic place in the life of metropolitan Melbourne. There are strong environmental grounds for supporting the retention of retailing within the CBD, as the Melbourne city centre is at the hub of the radial public transport network, and achieves by far the highest public transport usage rates. A close examination of available data shows that whilst central city retailing in Melbourne declined in significance during the 1960s and 1970s, the decline has all but halted. The way the threat of decline has been both conceived and responded to, provides insight into the current state of public sector planning. An analysis of planning strategies for the central city of Melbourne since the 1950s demonstrates a steady move away from the interventionist, relying increasingly on marketing and promotion as tools to assist economic development. The cities of Toronto, Copenhagen and Manchester are investigated here as three different models of more positive and interventionist planning. These examples show that there is room to move within the constraints of the competitive global economy. These cities provide alternative possibilities for strategic planning in the future, and the knowledge that alternative strategies can be successfully followed without compromising economic competitiveness.
KeywordsCity planning; Melbourne; Melbourne (Vic.); Urban policy; Victoria
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