Yesterday was a day for local news. The local newspaper reported that work on the former QUT campus at Carseldine will commence. Incidentally, no one really knows what’s happening there except that it will be a ‘public service node’. The newspaper report says the existing buildings are being refurbished with work commencing imminently for relocation of public servants by the end of 2012. Rumours say it’s the Department of Public Works, potentially a depot or workshop, but nothing in the way of community engagement or information. There was also a suggestion of co-working or smart work facilities at Carseldine to accommodate micro-businesses and emerging enterprises floated at the recent Asia Pacific Cities Summit. Other rumours seem to indicate that a cleantech cluster proposal was quashed in the decision making regimes of government. So let’s just say the whole project feels thrown together, perhaps even plonked, and in the end those who could have made a real difference in this project through clear and open thinking about this opportunity have been locked out of the discussions. I’ve been chasing this white whale for several years, since my membership of the Ministerial Regional Community Forum, only to have every suggestion (including propositions for design and social innovation incubation) ignored and every expressed desire for communication and collaboration blocked. Had the site been privately owned, I suspect there could have been more scope for conversation about potential and opportunity as well as some better quality community engagement.
In other news, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today announced that NBN Co will this month commence progressive construction in nine NBN second release sites, one of which will be Aspley, with work commencing in December 2011. How fascinating is that? I always knew that Brisbane North was earmarked but had assumed it would be a more centrally located area. Pity there’s no longer a university in the locality and there’s absolutely no cultural infrastructure (not even a library) and negligible social infrastructure to catalyse creative use of this technology. Likewise, the industry and enterprise profile of the locality seems to be quite ‘ordinary’ but perhaps I haven’t looked closely at it. Maybe small businesses operating from home (like my partner’s consultancy, Harbinger Consultants) but these can be hampered by the lack of co-working spaces and other enterprise to enterprise dynamics. There are some interesting emerging trends in the locality, like ethnic residents and businesses, and aged residents. And of course, the local schools including a high school, two primary schools, a Catholic school and a special school which I hope will be able to take advantage of broadband. I don’t know if there is any connection between the Carseldine work (as potentially a Public Works location) and the broadband rollout (as national infrastructure).
There finally seems to be some focus on this area as a locale rather than a highway, which is historically how we are treated – endless roadworks but little improvement of what I desperately describe as the ‘public domain’. And so some significant attention placed on (re)connecting this outer suburban environment via the northern busway and broadband is well overdue. To be honest, I am excited to see the result of this enhanced connectivity and what it could mean for the refabrication and revitalisation of the local centre given that many of the businesses are franchises. Can this catalyse a way of thinking about suburban centre improvement beyond statutory planning and fru fru? Could something like broadband actually catalyse better suburban development and revitalise the local shopping centre which is peppered with empty shops? Even the Hypermarket appears to be on its last legs? What happens when broadband is factored into place-based thinking? When the busway runs through, there’s the possibility that the properties will be bought for redevelop. Even now, there’s small opportunities for change (NOTE: Locally-based architect/artist Jason Haigh of Cloud-Dwellers has posted a comment here too). The ditch digging for the cable has the potential to be used as a catalyst for streetscaping (footpaths where none exist and tree planting). Achieving two results with the one effort i.e. improved walkability coupled with improved communications connectivity sets the scene for a more dynamic locality. More importantly, with such major infrastructure investment, it needs a collaborative and integrative approach that understands how benefits to the community can accrue from such planned changes.