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5 minutes with ICON on building community in multi-res

How do you build community in multi-res developments? We get the low down on 122 Roseneath Street in Melbourne – a project by Wulff, Fieldwork, Assemble and ICON Developments.

Indesignlive speaks to Kyle Reeve, senior development manager at ICON Developments, about 122 Roseneath Street in Clifton Hill – a project which places community and collaboration at its core.

Indesignlive: Can you tell me about 122 Roseneath, what sets it apart?

Kyle Reeve: 122 Roseneath Street is a unique project due to its focus on human-centred design and community consultation. The joint development partners – ICON Developments, Wulff Projects and Assemble – inverted the traditional top-down multi-residential model in favour of a community-led approach. We engaged early with local residents during town planning and ran numerous design presentations seeking feedback from prospective purchasers prior to sales as well as during construction. This approach was unprecedented on this scale of a project in Australia.

By speaking directly to our audience, we have created homes that reflect purchasers’ preferences and have fostered a genuine sense of community. We discovered that our purchasers valued social connection, environmental sustainability, a high quality of design and materiality, and a strong belief in the value of well-built medium density housing that enjoys the cultural vibrancy that comes with an inner-suburbs lifestyle.

“We engaged early with local residents during town planning and ran numerous design presentations seeking feedback.” – Kyle Reeve

Emerging directly from this process of consultation, 122 Roseneath Street is designed around flexible communal spaces, including a multi-purpose workshop and a communal room for dining and entertaining. Residents were consulted on almost every aspect of the design – the functions for the communal room and adjoining terrace, the type of ground floor retail tenancy, carpark demand, pet-friendly owners’ corporation rules and sustainability features, including external operable shutters, an embedded energy network and a shared composting facility.

A unique team came together for this project – Wulff, Assemble/Fieldwork and ICON – how did these dynamics play out and what did the collaboration process look like?

122 Roseneath Street demonstrates how a thoughtful, community-led approach to design can achieve strong social, cultural and commercial outcomes. Extensive community engagement, consulting with the local Clifton Hill community and potential buyers before putting pen to paper on the design – all of the development partners are committed to this new development model and this way of working was what brought us together.

At ICON, design is at the centre of all we do and 122 Roseneath Street was a great chance to apply the principles of human-centred design – creating feedback loops with the end-user at every stage of development and design – on an important project.

“122 Roseneath Street was a great chance to apply the principles of human-centred design.” – Kyle Reeve

We worked with Wulff Projects because we share the company’s view that good developments can deliver both strong financial and social returns on investment. A development that creates a successful long-term community is a great sustainable investment. Working with Assemble and Fieldwork also brought with it a passion for small footprint living that we also share.

We strongly believe that tightly knit communities located close to public transport, jobs, cultural centres and natural resources, such as the nearby Merri Creek nature corridor, are the most sustainable typologies for our future cities.

How has the built outcome changed from the original designs? Or what elements of the original design have carried through to the final product?

The human-centred design process we followed involved no fewer than 12 presentations to the future occupants. This meant that the ‘original design’ was constantly refined and we were able to build a final product that very closely matched what buyers were expecting, because they’d come with us on every step of the journey.

Another advantage of working this way is that we knew we were delivering exactly what our market group wanted. This had direct benefits in that we sold the vast majority of the apartments and townhouses within the first day of sales; buyers had already been consulted, which created excitement, and they also felt confident they would get the design as described in the plans. For the development partners this also saved us money on marketing the development, savings we were able to reinvest into the design and pass on to the occupants.

“The ‘original design’ was constantly refined and we were able to build a final product that very closely matched what buyers were expecting.” – Kyle Reeve

What are some of the unique inclusions or details that came out of the unique buyer journey?

As already mentioned, buyers were consulted on almost every aspect of the external and communal features at 122 Roseneath Street. The community we attracted valued sustainability, so there are solar hot water systems and rainwater collection for the communal green spaces, which includes a native landscape garden. Using sustainable materials and building to Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) principles were a clear priority for buyers, which they indicated they were willing to pay for.

A philosophy of flexibility and owner choice continued the design brief inside the dwellings. For example, the proposal offered standard and premium options across kitchens, bathrooms and flooring as well as extras – including the possibility of adding large sliding doors to make a second bedroom into a flexi room or adding a children’s bath beneath the shower; or the provision for a pet door or an ‘arrival station’ by the door to drop off coats, keys and shoes on the way in.

Can you talk to the philosophy and background on ‘small-footprint living’ and how has ICON worked in this framework?

The benefits of small-footprint living underpin the entire design philosophy of 122 Roseneath Street. While Australians have traditionally preferred large houses – and as a result are often forced to live farther than they would like to from work or cultural activities – more people are coming to understand the benefits of living in inner-city areas, of living in smaller, better thought-out, lower maintenance spaces.

It means you can live a more active lifestyle; you are close enough to ride to work in the city if you choose. It means you can live in a community that feels like a village.

Photography by Tatjana Plitt.

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