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Apartment buyers seek ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods that are a step up from the rest

The humble Australian backyard is becoming a historic relic of fading aspirations for the quarter-acre block.
Nanjing Night Net

Melburnians are increasingly shifting to apartment living for its affordability and convenience.

The neighbourhood is the new backyard.

Apartment-dwellers are taking a more communal approach to their recreational spaces both inside and surrounding their buildings and anywhere they can walk to is now part of their territorial claim of “home”.

That includes neighbourhood cafes, shops, markets, parks and public transport and all the other places we walk to as part of our day-to-day lives.

“You can’t have a walkable neighbourhood if you haven’t got anywhere to walk to – that’s the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker,” explains Professor Billie Giles-Corti, the director of the University of Melbourne’s McCaughey VicHealth Unit for Community Wellbeing, who has led studies of the city’s walkability.

“It’s the mix of destinations that is really important and the first thing to have is connected streets.”

Another pre-condition of walkability is density as low-density suburbs do not have enough population to support a large mix of shops and services as walkable destinations.

Developers often trumpet the “walk score” of their prized location as a selling point for their inner-city apartment projects.

What does it all mean? The Walk Score website was founded in the US but provides walk scores for Melbourne suburbs assessing how easy it is to get around on foot to various amenities.

The site ranks Melbourne’s most walkable suburbs with scores in the 90s as Carlton, Fitzroy, Fitzroy North, Melbourne, St Kilda, South Yarra, East Melbourne, South Melbourne, Collingwood and Windsor.

At the other end of the walkability scale, the most car-dependent suburbs with scores in the 30s are Derrimut, Narre Warren South, Belgrave South, Roxburgh Park, Rosebud West, Mount Evelyn, Endeavour Hills, Altwood, Lilydale and Croydon North.

It’s not just students and young people who are seeking car-optional neighbourhoods.

Health-conscious Baby Boomers who have finally emptied the nest want to enjoy their newfound freedom on foot now they have removed the shackles of their more remote suburban homes.

“We see that when people come out of large homes into apartments, they want an increased lifestyle because they’ve got more time on their hands not having to maintain large properties and backyards and pools,” the managing director of 360 Property Group John Meagher says. “The café culture is a massive driver.”

Professor Giles-Corti says the health benefits of living in walkable neighbourhoods is significant, with evidence of lower rates of obesity and chronic disease where residents are less reliant on cars. “It’s really the good news story,” she says.

Young families are joining the shift to apartments in highly walkable suburbs reducing the need for the “mum taxi”, although heavy traffic in high-density neighbourhood acts as a deterrent to walking particularly for children.

Domain Group senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson says that despite the rise of telecommuting allowing people to work from home, they still want to get out and about, which is why digital services like online grocery shopping have limited demand.

“I think there is a move towards areas where you can compartmentalise all the things you need to do within walking distance,” he says. “I don’t think we are ever going to just live in our own little bunkers as there will always be a need for personal interaction with the things that we do.”What makes a suburb “walkable”?A well-connected street network that allows plenty of pedestrian routes encourages walking.A good variety of shops and services, including supermarkets and medical centres, encourages walking for all the needs of day-to-day living.Cafes, restaurants and bars in close proximity encourage people to get out on foot.Traffic has a large impact. Busy roads deter people from walking, especially children.While parks are good for mental health and exercise, too much public open space can reduce walkability as there are a lack of other destinations.Density is necessary for walkability. Low-density areas do not have the population to support a variety of shops and services as destinations.A walkable neighbourhood has good public transport that promotes less reliance on the car.Outdoor facilities that accommodate the needs of all ages of children, such as play equipment for young children and basketball courts or skateboarding parks for adolescents.

663 Chapel Street South Yarra  $460,000 – $6.9 million

AN elegant new addition to the ever-rising skyline of South Yarra is the 21-level Royal Como development on Chapel Street featuring spacious apartments aimed at downsizers.

Adjacent to Melbourne High School in one of the city’s most walkable suburbs, the 112-apartment project by Chinese developer C&L International Holdings is close to South Yarra’s swanky fashion boutiques, restaurants and cafes and is only 100 metres from South Yarra train station.

Designed by Bruce Henderson Architects with interiors by Nexus Design, Royal Como and will have an Australian theme with artworks commissioned from Australian artists on every floor creating an art gallery feel.

The building’s exterior of silver reflective glass and a diagonal motif was inspired by the nearby Yarra River.

“We wanted to give the façade that sense of movement, a bit like the ripples of the Yarra,” says Bruce Henderson Architects director John Scaramuzzino. “It helps give the building a sense of visual energy.”

The apartments are generously sized with one-bedrooms from 46 to 69 square metres internally, two-bedroom apartments 75 to 109 square metres, three-bedrooms 180 to 210 square metres and a four-bedroom penthouse sized at 326 square metres. Outdoor spaces range from six-square-metre balconies to 190-square metre terraces.

The sixth level of the development features a pool overlooking Chapel Street, a gymnasium, a residents lounge and an outdoor terrace with barbecue facilities.

Royal Como is being marketed by Knight Frank, 0438 346 313. A display suite at 663 Chapel Street, South Yarra, is open daily from 11am-3pm.

  Stepping out in style

Doug Eastick is rather fond of walking. So much so, he once set out to do a lap around the Tan walking track which soon became three, then six, and finally 11 laps to walk a full marathon distance – just for fun.

“I’m 49 and I like walking – to the Tan, to the city, to the MCG. That’s part of my health,” the private school property manager says.

His desire to live within walking distance of supermarkets, parks, restaurants and the MCG to see his beloved Tigers play was a key factor in his search for the right apartment.

That quest ended in the off-the-plan purchase of a two-bedroom apartment at the Royal Como development in South Yarra.

“It’s just a great location right on Chapel Street,” Eastick says. “You’ve got all the restaurants, Richmond, the MCG and all the other major sporting grounds and you’ve got Fawkner Park, the Botanical Gardens and the Yarra Trail for cycling and walking along the river.”

Eastick was also impressed with the size and layout of the apartment and looks forward to the low-maintenance lifestyle. “Because I’m in property myself, the last thing I want to do when I retire is maintain properties which I’ve done my whole life,” he says. ]]>DomainThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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