As the Managing Director of Kelvin Trimper Consulting and the former Chair of the Education Planning Network for the Golden Grove Development, Kelvin Trimper, spent many years brokering strategic educational partnerships at both Golden Grove Village and Mawson Lakes in South Australia. I spoke with Kelvin to understand how innovative education approaches were critical to establishing these two successful communities.
How was Delfin’s approach to community different to other developers?
Delfin understood community and the importance of family and the benefit of community, predominantly around church and school communities. The fabric which made up that was something pretty special, and if you could plan and deliver it, then you had something that certainly was very commercial.
Secondly, Delfin recognised that you had something special if you actually created community, which had a bit more longevity and a bit more staying power than just the bricks and mortar. However a community needs places to meet and greet, excuses to connect, so at West Lakes, Golden Grove and Mawson Lakes Delfin created the physical attributes that provided the excuse for people to mix and mingle.
Delfin also recognised that if you provided a mix of housing, you could deal with the peaks and troughs in the market, as well as providing for a mix of people. Strong communities globally have a really strong mix of people – age profile, culture, their socioeconomic status, etc. The bigger the mix, the more successful the community.
How did you approach the delivery of school services and facilities?
In the eighties I worked with Delfin on Golden Grove which informed a lot of the way our future projects developed. At Golden Grove we had a shared approach to education facilities. We identified all the expenses and facilities that could be shared between private and public schools, like laboratories and sports grounds, allowing for bigger, better and more efficient use.
We were able to attract private schools earlier by providing land at a discounted rate and giving them time to pay the land off. Access to capital has always been the difficulty of establishing private schools in growth areas. There’s generally been a lag of 10 to 15 years but by having them in early they contribute to establishment of community.
This bought in people who wanted access to private education and contributed to establishing a diverse community. We knew that 15% of those buying a block of land at Golden Grove were buying as a direct result of the private school access and about 50% of school age children at Golden Grove went to private school.
The norm we broke at Golden Grove and continued at Mawson Lakes was not using a formula-driven approach to community development based on population numbers. Communities aren’t that predictable, nor should they be. You make a decision yourself based on your values and a whole raft of other factors.
By sharing open space with the community, schools didn’t have to buy the land. We entered joint or shared use agreements that meant schools had access to open space at certain times and under certain arrangements, reducing the amount and cost of the land they were require to purchase.
How did you develop a vision for Mawson Lakes?
Mawson Lakes was intended to be the Sustainable City of the Future. We broke this down into three parts; sustainable meaning socially, environmentally and economically; city referred to place; and future meant technology. Given that it had to be sustainable over time, that’s where we bought in learning, training, research and development.
All of that became the six pillars of Mawson Lakes; learning and research and development, social, environmental, economic, place, and technology. These became the deliverables which we independently reviewed every three years, and set KPI’s against.
Did these drivers attract people to Mawson Lakes?
Put simply, Mawson Lakes created place. We delivered the lake early and made sure the first commercial site we sold was to the pub which also had accommodation. University students would actually stay “on campus” to use the pub.
The University Campus was to be a key part of Mawson Lakes and hopefully attracted residents. But it only offered engineering which meant students were 95% male and didn’t stay. The university spent $250million over ten years and turned the gender balance round from 95% male to 55/45. Arts subjects and teacher training were bought in turning the gender balance around. Suddenly, the University was a campus where students lingered.
Although it probably wasn’t viable for the first four years we provided the town centre early and the moment we did kids started staying. The bulk of student accommodation that has been most successful is actually the mixed use accommodation above the shops. We were able to achieve 100 dwellings per hectare in the Town Centre Precinct which attracted strong investment in rentals. We deliberately chose anchors like Woolworths to create the town centre, subsidising them for the first twelve or eighteen months with a base turnover rent.
Today, Mawson Lakes has about 12,000 residents, 6500 students and about the same number workers. It is a very mixed use community which gives a vibrancy, maturity and character found in older communities.
How did you support new community members moving into Mawson Lakes?
We employed a person at the Mawson Centre to help community groups set up and connect employees with the centre, council services and local employers which was all part of the welcoming kit provided to new residents.
Of the one percent of all land sales revenue, half of one percent went to a community development fund that was matched by the City of Salisbury and the other half went to an Innovation Economic Opportunities Fund which was dedicated to sponsoring ideas about economic development. These funds were amazingly important and supported the many community facilities and initiatives. The community fund helped build the Mawson Centre when we were 1 million dollars short in stakeholder contributions.
Aside from the major retail anchors were you successful in attracting a mix of other uses? Some succeeded and some didn’t, we have a lot of home offices in Mawson Lakes and a lot of blue collar services. It is important to support those that work from home or office incubators with access to services; and that includes cafes, printing shops, financial support, banking and childcare. These are all just as important and need to be near where they work even if it is from home.
If you could change one thing about the way we currently create communities what would it be?
To absolutely guarantee you’ve got people on the ground that can facilitate the new residential community connecting at every level. It’s about promoting belonging, because there’s a desperate desire for everyone to belong. Place is an important element but it’s people that make it happen. It often needs a broker that can facilitate people coming together and getting involved, not participating, but involved, there’s a big difference.
It’s the old eggs and bacon story, the chook’s participating but the pig’s involved. That’s what it’s about, finding the right sort of people to make that happen. If every community had these sorts of people the world would be a lot better.