18 Jan 2024
The large community spaces at mixed-use development Ed.Square Town Centre in Sydney, Australia supports a variety of leisure and cultural activities.
Human connection is what makes a place or building come alive – a placemaking philosophy that Cameron Jackson firmly believes in when designing communal spaces to bring people closer together.
“We understand the human side of property to deliver diverse, sustainable and beautiful places that leave a positive legacy, enhancing the way people live life together in places they’re proud to belong to,” said the General Manager of Development at Frasers Property Australia in New South Wales.
A recent project is Ed.Square, a vibrant 25-hectare urban village in south-west Sydney’s Edmondson Park, comprising both townhouses and apartments. At the heart of this precinct is Ed.Square Town Centre, an A$1.5 billion shopping, dining and lifestyle haven that Frasers Property opened in 2021.
Beyond the shops, what makes Ed.Square distinctive is its strong sense of community – thanks to the efforts of Cameron and his team. Ed.Square’s Community Centre is a space where people can host various activities from meetings and fitness classes, to cooking and parenting workshops.
One highlight was the ‘Humans of Ed.’ exhibition in 2022. The portrait and storytelling series featured residents and retailers against the backdrop of landmarks in Ed.Square, sharing stories about their attachment to the area.
“Residents and their families came together to celebrate the unveiling of their portraits and stories of why they love calling Ed.Square home,” noted Cameron.
“Like all our communities, our objective at Ed.Square is to create belonging through building social relationships, support mechanisms and social capital required to foster a strong and sustainable community.”
This is the trademark of projects by Frasers Property – the art of using thoughtful design and planning of spaces to enhance living quality and community building.
The details matter when it comes to designing spaces. As Sydney is a global city with a melting pot of communities and cultures, and an equally diverse geographic landscape from mountains to coasts, these attributes are imbued in the placemaking plans.
For instance, Ed.Square touts an alfresco dining stretch called Eat Street, whose tenancy mix reflects the area’s various cultures and caters to the diverse community. There is also support for domestic produce and labour.
“It prioritises local operators to unlock new economic opportunities for locals,” said Cameron, a veteran in urban design planning and community engagement who has been with Frasers Property for almost 25 years.
Connectivity is also paramount at Ed.Square, where residents of the 1,884 homes enjoy plenty of amenities, parks, restaurants and even a train station at their doorstep. Everything is designed to be within walking distance.
Such connectivity also features prominently in other developments with placemaking design by Frasers Property.
Interestingly, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that heightened the value of accessibility, especially to exercise areas, outdoor gathering places and retail shops, noted Cameron.
At Fairwater in western Sydney, for example, two major parks and a lake were created as residents wanted to be near water. Over at The Waterfront, Shell Cove, on the New South Wales south coast, Frasers Property not only designed a new oceanfront community but also a major new boat harbour, marina and open areas for local markets and open-air cinema nights.
“Ensuring that our communities integrate spaces and programmes that are free and available to all is a vital consideration in placemaking,” he added.
The crown jewel of Ed.Square is undoubtedly its Town Centre, which offers 25,000 square metres of retail space and 100 tenants spread over two levels. The retail space has been leveraged to help build a community at Ed.Square.
“Key to this is to engage residents in the evolution of their community and to facilitate cohesion between people and place, to develop a shared sense of community,” said Cameron.
This was done by using art to boost community ties. Three public artworks that reinforce Ed.Square’s identity were created by local artist James Dive.
Among them is Ping Pong 1000, an expansive mural representing an endless table-tennis tournament played across the community.
Frasers Property also partnered with local businesses to reward acts of kindness in the community during the pandemic. Called the Kindness Project, it succeeded in boosting morale and solidarity among tenants and residents.
Cameron and his team’s extensive experience in placemaking ensure that an inspiring and connected local community is being created at Ed.Square.
In Australia, this is achieved through careful consideration, partnership and consultation at all stages of the projects with communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The collaborative approach is seen even in the smaller details, such as in work attire donned by Frasers Property employees at Shell Cove. Paintings by indigenous artist Racheal Morgan form motifs on the polo shirts, presenting the bilima (turtle), which is both her family totem as well as one of the first animals sighted at Shellharbour Marina at its opening.
The uniform design was mooted by Frasers Property Senior Construction Supervisor Iain Ross, who is Maori. “There was synergy between me working for Frasers Property, wanting to put something in our clothing that really represents what Frasers Property is doing here, and Racheal’s work and connection to this area,” Ross said.
To Cameron, imbuing such meaning is what placemaking is all about. “Placemaking should always be led through a genuine connection to the community to understand and engage with the past, present and future,” he said.