Podcast: Find your place … just shop around


Ecologic building shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil

In this week’s pod we look at “placemaking” which seems to be designing communities simply to make them nicer places to live.

By nicer, of course, we mean places that don’t stress you out in the walk to and from the station every day. More trees and open spaces are a start, but then open spaces are exactly where developers want to put buildings. And trees generally get in the way of that.

We also look at the NSW government’s plans to bring more high and medium rises to where there are shops (rather than the other way round). 

And we ask what shops we would like in our block – by way of introducing this week’s poll which asks readers what they would like to see in their building.

All that and more in the pod, this week.


Jimmy:  00:00

We are going to combine two of Flat Chat’s favourite topics today in one.

Sue :  00:06

What are those?

Jimmy:  00:07

 Airbnb and pets.

Sue :  00:10

So we are only leaving out the other favourite one, which is parking. Can we not fit parking in there as well?

Jimmy:  00:16

We can talk about parking when we talk about our other topic, which is a sense of place, and the government’s plan to build more apartments around shopping centres. I’m JimmyThosmson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.

Sue :  00:31

And I’m Sue Williams and I write about property for the AFR, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Age and Domain.

Jimmy:  00:38

And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. Sue, you’ve been talking to people about a sense of place? I mean, what does that actually mean?

Sue :  00:59

Well, it’s the buzzword, I think, at the moment; ‘placemaking.’ When we talk about apartments, we want a nice exterior, we want it to be aesthetically-pleasing, we want it to work, we want the layout to be good, we want the interiors to be nice, we want there to be green spaces nearby, we want it to have a bus stop or a train station not too far away, we want shops nearby. But the idea is that when you actually build an apartment building, you also look at the area that it’s in, to kind of try and work out the things that everybody who lives there is going to need, and things that can really activate that neighbourhood, as well and really make it a much better place for everyone else. So it’s not just looking at a single apartment, or an apartment building; it’s looking at the whole area. And that’s kind of a loose explanation, I think, of placemaking.

Jimmy:  01:47

There’s a few buzzwords in there; activating, what does that mean?

Sue :  01:51

Just making a neighbourhood much more pleasant for people.

Jimmy:  01:55

Does that mean a park?

Sue :  01:56

It could be; it could be local transport, it could be a nice cafe there, that kind of thing. I mean, one of the leading people in this field, the Australian called Andrew Nguyen, who’s just brought out a new book about placemaking. He has written about it before, many, many times, about placemaking. He’s got a company, which is a placemaker company, called Nguyen and he talks about how you want to bring more joy to people’s lives. You know, you kind of want to really improve the quality of their lives, and improve the quality of the experience of living in a certain development, or project, or neighbourhood.  So it’s all about improving the neighbourhood and you can do that in conjunction with building a new apartment building. Planning it really, really well.

Jimmy:  02:44

Okay, so that does that mean facilities? Or does it mean open space? Or does it mean bigger apartments?

Sue :  02:51

It means a bit of everything; it means a bit of tree cover on the streets outside, it means green space, it means cafes, shops, restaurants, bars nearby… Everything that people want to have access to, really. They’d like a supermarket nearby, which wouldn’t be too far away, maybe even a bottle shop, a deli. or a great flower shop. All those kinds of things that really improve the quality of one’s life living in an area.

Jimmy:  03:22

I was just hearing on the radio the other day, that there’s been a survey done that has found a correlation between pregnant women getting too hot and premature births.

Sue :  03:32

Yes, that’s right. There’s also reports coming out now, mapping heat areas in neighbourhoods, as well. And those areas,  probably in the west of Sydney, are probably in areas where it’s very hot. There’s lots of tarmac roads, there’s not much tree cover, there’s not so much green space around that are parks, but there’s not a lot of green spaces integrated into housing developments. So they’re kind of now mapping these heat areas, and saying we really have to do something about them, because they’re just going to get worse and worse. You know, the climate is not going to improve any anytime soon.

Jimmy:  04:09

So more green spaces; more trees. A lot of these buildings are already built; they’re not going to knock them down to put a park in, are they?

Sue :  04:17

No, they’re not, but they can actually beautify them in other ways. I mean, they can have plantings on the balconies, they can have plantings in courtyards, they can do lots of things.  You obviously can’t do much about the orientation of a building, which is really important when you build it in the first place and maybe people didn’t take so much notice of it, back in the old days. But there’s lots of things you can do now. You can bring in shading.

Jimmy:  04:44

What about roof gardens; is that a thing?

Sue :  04:47

Oh, absolutely. That’s a huge thing now, really, and I think Sydney has kind of fallen behind with that. Well actually, nearly every Australian city has fallen behind, because the Australian climate is so fabulous,, you’d think that roof gardens would be perfect.You can get a nice view from there, the weather is often quite nice; it’s not so great in some places at the moment. But they lend themselves perfectly to open spaces on the top of buildings. And it also really helps the sense of community in a building, because it’s not only the more wealthy people near the top of the building that have great views, it means that the people who have apartments on the lower levels, also have access to a great view, because they can go up to the communal roof garden (or if there’s maybe a pool up there, or something like that), and really enjoy that, too.

Jimmy:  05:37

You mentioned shops and facilities…There’s a report in the paper this week, that the New South Wales government is looking at relaxing height controls around shopping centres. So rather than taking the shopping centres to where there are apartments, they are actually going to take apartments to where there are existing shops, even if they don’t have those transport connections. Is this a good idea? Yeah, well… I mean, I’m thinking the new building just up the road from us, the Omnia, used to be a hotel and when that was being built, we heard all these things about how the developers were going to curate fantastic shopping experiences on the ground floor. If my memory serves me correctly, we have a KFC, we have Hungry Jack’s, we have Zambrero Mexican restaurant.

Sue :  06:04

I think it is an excellent idea. I’ve been writing about mixed-use developments just lately, as well. And they are developments where you have apartments, and you have on the ground floor, or the first floor, or both. You have lots of retail there as well. And it’s fantastic, for the people who live in those apartments, because instead of coming out their apartment, getting into their car and driving to a shopping centre, they just walk down (or get the lift down), and they’ve got shops there for them. And that’s so convenient; it’s so fantastic, being able to do that. And the good developments… They are finding out; a lot of people say this is the way the future really. I talked to SJB architect Adam Haddow, who’s designed some of these mixed-use developments and he says it’s kind of going back to the past in mediaeval times. People like to live together in a community and they like to have stores there as well. And now we’re going back to that time. So we’re not having retail miles away and separate from where we live; we’re having it all together. So the village is coming to us, rather than us having to go to the village and I think that’s really interesting. As you know, obviously, we live in a building very close to lots of shops and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been here so long, because it’s so easy. It’s so convenient; it’s so simple. All fast food places…

Jimmy:  08:09

The place on the corner that used to be the legendary Goldfish Bowl bar is empty and the first floor is an odd iteration of Woolworths. The ceiling feels too low and dark and most of the product on sale is snack food, from what I can tell.

Sue :  08:35

To suit the backpackers in the area.

Jimmy:  08:37

Maybe. It doesn’t even seem to do much (I know it does some), but it doesn’t seem to do much in that that growing trend that you certainly see in the UK, of people picking up instant meals. I know that they are around but you go into a station in London and  there’s a Marks and Spencers there, which is not selling underwear. It’s selling instant food; you just take it home and heat it up, and wine. Basically, you get a special deal on your way home, a bottle of wine and a dish of pasta and who could not want that for their dinner?

Sue :  09:10

I think with these some of these new mixed-use developments, it’s taken trial and error, I think.  And they were very slow to take off here, but they’re now taking off,  in the last 5-to-10 years. And actually developers are realising the value of creating the retail experience downstairs, because they realise that if you have good retailers, then the building becomes more desirable. People are attracted to the area. The developers can charge higher prices. The owners like living there more and the investor/ owners have no trouble at all, attracting tenants and high rents and keeping tenants, as well. So it’s a long term great investment to have really good shops curated there. And people are putting much more effort into that now. There are people with a specialty of going out, searching for the kind of shops that they want. In one building, they wanted a bottle shop. Now sometimes you think “do I want to live above a bottle shop?”  But this is a really nice bottle shop, that also has a deli and it’s really up market, as well. You talked about these fast food restaurants, downstairs from another building… Well now, the one that people hate having beneath them (apart from fast food restaurants), is vape shops.

Jimmy:  10:40

Do they hate them because of all the vapour, or because of the people they attract. Or, is it just on principle?

Sue :  10:48

I think it’s just on principle. You know, vaping is just so awful. It really ruins people’s health and it just seems to be this huge trend now and it’s really trapping young people.

Jimmy:  10:58

It’s a gateway to tobacco smoking and we thought we were getting on top of it.

Sue :  11:05

The other really unfashionable place to have underneath the building is a tattoo parlour.

Jimmy:  11:10

Well, I’m thinking the other side of the street from this apartment block, that we’ve just seriously maligned… There’s a fast food burger restaurant on the corner, there’s a pet shop, there’s a dodgy massage parlour. There’s a new place just opened, a fortune teller; that’s a nice addition. Just moving along…

Sue :  11:36

There’s a Vietnamese banh mi shop…

Jimmy:  11:40

And there’s a pawnbroker and then there’s a Vietnamese restaurant. There’s a weird bar, that never seems to be open. There’s a library and a tattoo parlour and a safe injecting room. We’ve got everything; we’ve got nothing to complain about.

Sue :  11:59

I guess the safe injecting room isn’t very popular. I mean, that’s been a very controversial place…

Jimmy:  12:04

It cleaned up the Cross though, hasn’t it? You used to go out during the day and you’d just see needles everywhere. I saw one on the street the other day and I was absolutely shocked. I thought, I hadn’t seen that in 5-10 years.

Sue :  12:17

No, it’s fantastic.

Jimmy:  12:19

Sue, I’m going to put a survey on the Flat Chat website… What shops would you most like to be under your apartment building? What three shops, or businesses, would you like to be under this apartment building?

Sue :  12:37

I would like a great cafe, that sells really healthy and really delicious food, and good coffee,

Jimmy:  12:44

And stays open?

Sue :  12:45

Yes, rather than ones that close at 11 o’clock,  or just before lunch, which is so frustrating. And I would like a newspaper shop, with a stationary section as well. For the third one, I would like a deli, so I could go down and buy food for the evening, because I can’t cook.

Jimmy:  13:13

You could combine the cafe and the deli, but that doesn’t doesn’t give you your three.

Sue :  13:20

You don’t usually see very many cafes combined with delis.

Jimmy:  13:23

I think you do, but maybe further down MacLeay Street.

Sue :  13:26

Okay, well, how about a nice flower shop?

Jimmy:  13:30

And given that there’s zero foot traffic past our… Well,  there’s foot traffic, but it tends to be people jogging off to the park and taking their dogs for a walk.  I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but a nice thought.

Sue :  13:43

And what would your three be? A  bottleshop, a bar?

Jimmy:  13:51

I like the cafe idea; a cafe deli idea. A bottleshop would be good…

Sue :  13:59

A pasta restaurant.

Jimmy:  14:00

I was going to say, either like Friggitoria in Bayswater road, or a really good Mexican restaurant. That would be good; I could live with that. We can dream. Actually, just in case anyone’s wondering, there are no commercial properties underneath our building that are available, so don’t don’t even bother coming around to look. When we come back, we are going to talk about pets and Airbnb. That’s after this.

Sue :  14:30

That’s quite a dynamite combination, isn’t it; Airbnb and pets?

Jimmy:  14:40

Just when you think things have been sorted out… This is related to a new development on the south coast and much to the horror of the downsizers who have moved in, who make up most of the people there, some people have, because it’s a seaside town, they obviously want to do Airbnb, some of them and the downsizers who are on the committee, have been caught out. They’ve been caught unawares; some of them thought that they weren’t going to be any short- term lets in the building and then the developer put four of their unsold apartments on Airbnb, so they soon smartened up to that idea. But now this thing has come up, where there’s one company…There’s one company that we’ve actually come across several times in various discussions, about this. They are called MadeComfy. We actually know the people (vicariously), who run it, and they seem to be really responsible and responsive to the owners concerned. But there’s another company that operates down there, who really don’t give a damn

Sue :  16:03

Apparently;; allegedly…,

Jimmy:  16:04

They were told you’ve started doing rentals, but the law says (and this is the law, not a bylaw), the law says you’ve got to give 21-days’ notice of change of use. The guy says “we sent the email.” “Well, we never received the email.” “Oh, well, we sent it.” “Could you check your sent file?” “No, I’m too busy, because my business is expanding so rapidly,” he’s actually said this. Too busy to check his sent file. I’m thinking, you’re a liar mate. You never sent this and you don’t care. You think it’s just a bunch of dottery old people, who don’t understand strata, or anything like that and you can just run rings around them. Well, he’s about to find out that is not true, because he’s been advertising his properties as pet friendly. The building is pet-friendly, isn’t it?  The building is pet-friendly, but they’re not strange-dog friendly.

Sue :  17:01

Okay, so it’s just for resident owners.

Jimmy:  17:03

I think it’s a 21-day notice. If you’re going to bring a pet into the building, you have to let the committee know, 21-days in advance, so that they can at least assess whether or not it’s going to be okay. Now, given that the law has changed dramatically over the past few years, so it’s very difficult to stop pets from coming into a building. But there are circumstances where you might want to do that. For instance, if it was a dangerous dog, or an aggressive dog, or something like that, or a cat that was going to roam around and kill wild animals, you would want to not have that.

Sue :  17:41

Or a dog that was going to be really noisy and out of control.

Jimmy:  17:46

If people are bringing a dog in and then spending all day at the beach, without the dog and the dog is barking all day, you want to be able to control that. So the committee in this building have told this company, you’ve got to stop advertising these properties as pet-friendly, because they’re not. And he has come back and said, basically “I know my rights and you’ve got no idea. This is going to ruin my business.” This is the same business that is growing so rapidly, that he doesn’t have time to check his sent emails.  I mean, we’ve been around the traps a few times with strata and Airbnb; you get the sense that this guy is just saying “I don’t give a stuff what you want. I’m going to do what I like, because I’m in this to make money, not to make people happy.” It’s going to be very interesting to see how that pans out. But what do you think; do you think you can ban pets from Airbnb?

Sue :  18:50


Jimmy:  18:52

I say Airbnb; I mean short term rentals generally.

Sue :  18:55

But absolutel., I mean, all buildings that have pets, or nearly all of them, have a policy that you have to register your pet. If I got a new cat, I’d have to show a photo of the cat…

Jimmy:  19:08

What breed it was and that it was neutered.

Sue :  19:11

That’s right, and that it had been injected against cat flu and stuff, so iit couldn’t affect anybody else. And tell them that I was a responsible owner; tell them a little bit about the cat as well. So if somebody just turned up on holiday, they’re not going to be able to register their pet.

Jimmy:  19:18

And they don’t care.

Sue :  19:31

It’s up to the owners of the apartments to say “we are responsible owners and we are not going to allow an agent to advertise our building as pet-friendly, because it’s not pet-friendly to non-residents.”

Jimmy:  19:49

It’s not universally. It’s going to be interesting, because this guy sounds like a clown and he’s obviously thinking “I can just do what I want and they can’t stop me,” and the residents of this building can look forward to some interesting days in the tribunal, when they’re having to deal with clown-features. I know you can’t judge people until you’ve met them, or had to deal with them, buy he sounds like exactly the kind of person who will push this as far as they can  just to be an irritation and then back off at the last minute and go “okay, I’m gonna take off the thing that it’s pet-friendly,” but then probably still allowed dogs to come in. You know, one of these people says, “well, sue me” and then gets upset when you do.

Sue :  20:00

If I had a dog (and I don’t), if I was going on holiday, I’d stay in a hotel that allows dogs. It wouldn’t actually occur to me, to rent an apartment and just assume that it was pet-friendly.

Jimmy:  20:58

But people are weird. And finally, talking about people going on holiday…

Sue :  21:08

Yes, ‘Lock up and Leave.’

Jimmy:  21:09

Well, we’ve changed the name. We’re calling it ‘Great Escapes,’ because it takes up less room in the headline. We’ve been trying to work out what is it that Flat Chat readers want to do on holiday. We’ve kind of narrowed it down to three things. One of them is hotel deals in the country, so they can just go for a weekend or something and have a nice time. Or even better, go midweek, when it’s a bit cheaper. Or, it’s interesting tours, that aren’t too far away.  Sri Lanka got a lot of readers. a tour of Sri Lanka, or Japan is another one. And then of course, there are cruises, which is just like living in an apartment, except you wake up in a different place every day.

Sue :  21:41

It’s kind of like an apartment building, but horizontal.

Jimmy:  22:07

In fact, somebody said if you tilted one of these cruise ships on its side, it would basically be…

Sue :  22:13

But that’s not advisable.

Jimmy:  22:14

No. Everybody would fall out. Have a look. It’s called ‘Great Escapes,’ it’s on the Flat Chat website. And we’re growing in numbers of subscribers to our travel website Mild Rover. The number of subscribers has quadrupled in the past couple of weeks. So we’re starting to build up a bit of a community there, which is nice, which is what we’re all about.

Sue :  22:40

So write to us and tell us what you think.

Jimmy:  22:42

Yes and do the survey about what kind of shops you’d like, underneath your building. And then next week, maybe we’ll do what you’d really wouldn’t like.

Sue :  22:54

I wouldn’t like a cheese shop. I love cheese, but I would put on so much weight, because I would want to buy cheese all the time.

Jimmy:  23:01

What about a massage place; a legitimate one? That would be nice. The combination of cheese and massage is not good; trust me. Thanks, Sue, for coming in at this late notice this week and contributing a lot to the podcast. And thank you all for listening. We’ll talk to you again soon.Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website flightchat.com.au. And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcatcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.


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  • #72919

      In this week’s pod we look at “placemaking” which seems to be designing communities simply to make them nicer places to live. By nicer, of course, we
      [See the full post at: Podcast: Find your place … just shop around]

      The opinions offered in these Forum posts and replies are not intended to be taken as legal advice. Readers with serious issues should consult experienced strata lawyers.
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