There is a project underway on Queensland's Sunshine Coast that is flying well under the radar. It’s described as Australia's largest greenfield infill project. An opportunity you don’t get every day, right? A new city centre regeneration project, anticipated to accelerate an already buoyant regional economy by creating the conditions for incubation, innovation and broader sustainable growth.
At 57 hectares, the Maroochydore City Centre development is no town centre development, or main street upgrade. It is a new central business district. We are talking about filling the hole in a donut. This project is about creating a new heart, a hub, a centre.
Consider these fast facts. The Maroochydore City Centre will include a 3.2 hectare hotel, entertainment, convention, and exhibition precinct, 65,000 sqm of retail space, coupled with 124,500 sqm of commercial floor space and 2,000 residential apartments. Almost 20 hectares of parkland and waterways, and 2.6 hectares of public plazas, make for one impressive development.
But what's most exciting about this development is that it's moved beyond the plan – ground has broken, initial funding committed and services are being laid.
And not just any network of utilities, but the bones and the veins for a smart city. This is where the smart cities journey starts.
A 'real' living laboratory
The Sunshine Coast Council's smart cities journey began in a smart city living laboratory in Caloundra, curated by the city’s smart cities lead, Michael Whereat. And it is in the main street of Caloundra, and its neighbouring blocks, where multiple experiments continue to take place. From laying a council-owned fibre network, installing smart lights and street poles, to deploying internet connected rubbish bins, this local authority has moved beyond smart cities rhetoric.
Unleashing a smart cities-led development framework
With its digital backbone and user-focused interface, Maroochydore Central will become one of Australia's most sustainable city centres, creating the conditions for stakeholders to make data-driven decisions in real time. This means making decisions that are more sustainable, more impactful and more often.
The smart city becomes the sustainable city
The Council's commitment to growing the region sustainability is clearly highlighted in the Smart Cities Framework. It identifies core sustainability targets around key issues (such as carbon reduction), and then provides strategies linked to those. Macro-economic modelling over a 10-year period has also been undertaken to ensure the full life cycle benefits are realised.
For this Council, the technology is not the end game, but rather the accelerator for being the most sustainable region in Australia, and a model worthy of replication far and wide.