The global series Imagine 2060: Delivering Tomorrow’s Cities Together was launched on 30 March 2017, with the inaugural symposium in Manila, Philippines marking the start of a 3-year international collaborative series led by AECOM and Asia Society.
The five cities which Imagine 2060 will explore in its first year – Manila, Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong – all have long histories and relationships with their respective waterfronts. Those histories, and their differences, will generate a range of ideas which participants in Imagine 2060: Imagine Manila series will share with each other as well as with the designers, developers and dwellers of other waterfront cities around the world, to enhance the economic potential of their cities, and the lives of their citizens.
The 2017 theme “At the Water’s Edge” celebrates the origins of many great cities and their evolving relationship with water. After the 2017 events, the following two years in the Imagine 2060 series will be dedicated to Earth and Air, and the potential for cities to deploy land and aerial space for their future transformation.
The public discourse at the Manila event brought together local and international leaders in urban design, infrastructure and public policy to connect with a common goal – imagining a long-term vision for Metro Manila with the potential of urban waterfront development a focal point, and addressing issues that might get in the way of realizing the vision. Speakers and commentators shared viewpoints and relevant case studies drawn from other waterfront cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Sydney and San Francisco, which Manila could explore in its quest to recreate itself as a truly 21st century waterfront city, and which would reinstate it as the so-called “Pearl of the Orient” – a compliment which was often bestowed on it less than a century ago.
The Manila discussions addressed the challenges of achieving an integrated and inclusive approach, one that would continue the aggressive transformation needed to provide new space for enhanced livability, while conserving historical sites and monuments. They also covered the competitiveness to be gained from waterfront renewals, and explored decision-making and performance management frameworks for smart infrastructure development – frameworks which have proven effective for other major waterfront cities and that could be considered for Manila.
Speakers and Panelists
Director of the National Museum of the Philippines
Datuk Zainal Amanshah
Principal, The Right Pitch Consultancy and former CEO of UrbanGrowth NSW
Global Director, Cities,
AECOM, San Francisco
The Net Group
Urban Planner, Author and Assistant General Manager for Operations Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
Sydney’s iconic waterfront is arguably the city’s most valuable asset. As the population doubles over the next 40 years what decisions need to be made now to ensure this precious resource is protected and enhanced guaranteeing future generations can enjoy its economic contributions and lifestyle benefits?
Asia Society and AECOM held a discussion with five eminent planning and innovation experts in Sydney on 22 June to discuss the future of Sydney Harbour and its contribution to the economic and cultural vibrancy of the city.
The 2017 theme of this three-year international collaborative series was “At the Water’s Edge”, and celebrates the origins of many great cities and their evolving relationship with water. Imagine 2060: Sydney included a keynote presentation from Nicholas Brooke — Chairman, Hong Kong Harbourfront Commission. Following this was a panel discussion with: Dr Stephanie Fahey, CEO of Austrade; Mr Joe James, Executive General Manager, Bays Development, Port Authority of NSW; Dr Sarah Pearson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Industry Engagement and Innovation at the University of Newcastle; and Mr David Pitchford, Principal of the Pitch Right Consultancy.
Speakers and Panelists
Chairman, Hong Kong Harbourfront Commission
Dr Stephanie Fahey
Executive General Manager, Bays Development, Port Authority of NSW
Dr Sarah Pearson
Pro Vice-Chancellor of Industry Engagement and Innovation University of Newcastle
Right Pitch Consultancy
A full recap of the session
The related factors that comprise this theme were identified as being critical to the future of Sydney Harbour, which is Sydney’s largest and most important physical asset. In particular, it is urgent that: the governance framework for the harbour is clarified; a stronger, regional planning authority is created to coordinate planning and development; and a ‘whole-of-government’ mandate is adopted to ensure that all government departments and agencies with a stake in, or with regulatory authority over, various aspects relating to the harbour are compelled to act in accordance with a masterplan for the harbour.
What should be at the harbour? This basic question needs to be asked and debated by government, with input from the community. We need a mixture of activities and careful deliberation regarding which activities belong where. Long-term planning decisions need to be made about the types of industries that are located there and what is necessary to enable them to succeed.
Over the past 40 years, there’s been a lot of change already in how the harbour has been used, and this will continue into the future. It needs to be carefully deliberated and everyone must work together to obtain the desired outcomes, with accountability for achieving them.
In Hong Kong, a Harbourfront Enhancement Committee was created to engage with the community. Following extensive consultation, it issued a research document that became the basis for the Harbourfront Planning Principles, which regulate changes to the harbourfront in a range of areas, including view corridors, setbacks for promenades, and more.
Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong has 73 kilometres of waterfront and, unusually, 70% of this is owned by the government. In the early 2000s, a private bill was passed to create a harbour ordinance protecting the community interest in the harbour. This outlawed new reclamation of land in the harbour (with a few specific exceptions and an “overriding public need” test to be met).
In addition to the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee, a non-governmental organisation called the Harbour Business Forum represents the views of businesses in relation to Victoria Harbour and it has ascribed a value to the amenity of the harbour, pegged at HK$73 billion, and recommended that there needed to be a harbour commission. This commission was created and it has several roles, including acting as a champion for Victoria Harbour, monitoring and coordinating planning, and investigating and making recommendations around public/private collaboration models.
Even in Hong Kong, though, their commission is only advisory; it acts as an advisor to the government, but it has no executive authority. Many people in Hong Kong want to set up an authority with executive powers, and on 1 July a new chief will take the reins of government, and there is a chance for some progress on this. The Hong Kong Harbourfront Commission has already examined London and New York as models of how an authority could be structured to help eliminate the many silos that exist across government departments.
Should Sydney adopt an approach similar to Hong Kong’s?
One of the greatest benefits of Sydney Harbour is its lifestyle appeal. Sydney is famous the world over for the beautiful blue waters and greenery that surround its multitude of bays and inlets and this contributes to its positive international reputation and its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Equally important are the cultural attractions and events both on and around the harbour, and the connection with nature the harbour allows, which are invaluable amenities to residents, visitors and investors. It will also help to attract and retain international talent to live and start businesses here.
At present, although access to the waterfront and the ability to walk around the area is highly valued by entrepreneurs for its stress-relieving and creativity-enhancing roles, too much land is not accessible or well connected. Some of the most desirable cities in the world, including New York City and London, have better access to their waterfronts and it is possible for people to walk the length of them, which is not possible in Sydney. More needs to be done in Sydney to make the foreshore more accessible, both by foot and by transit.
The Bays Precinct was identified as a good example of where Sydney currently fails in this regard. The area has 5.5 kilometres of waterfront that is inaccessible. The state and federal governments need to be convinced to protect this perimeter and not allow development to impede access to it. Unfortunately, it’s not obvious that this is being viewed by them as an obligation to the people of Sydney, New South Wales and Australia, or a strategic imperative to attract talent and investment.
Another part of having an open harbour is having few physical barriers, such as railings. In Hong Kong, there is consideration being given to getting rid of railings at the waterfront so as to better open it up.
Tourism is booming in Sydney. Australia receives over 8 million visitors per year, and 3.5 million of those are coming through Sydney. Sydney is a major drawcard for tourists nationally and globally, and many of those are arriving via the 311 cruise ships per year that dock here.
But can Sydney’s current infrastructure absorb projected increases? The new airport at Badgery’s Creek alone is expected to handle 10 million passengers by 2025 and up to 84 million by 2060.
Is this a problem of inadequate infrastructure or of too many tourists? Tourism is already one of the country’s largest industries, with 1 in 13 Australians employed by the industry. The more pertinent question is undoubtedly how do we spread out the tourists around the region and plan so that the expected increases in visitors present fewer challenges for residents? It is worth noting that Hong Kong is investing heavily in tourism-friendly infrastructure, such as a new cruise terminal that can handle ships up to 200,000 tonnes in size. What additional infrastructure does Sydney require to meet future demands?
It is necessary to plan now what infrastructure will be necessary in the long term. The harbour currently has less traffic than 30 years ago as containerisation is more efficient, so there is capacity to absorb additional traffic.
Panellists felt quite strongly that in order to compete globally, Sydney needed to be better connected with its neighbours in a greater ‘city region’, encompassing, at a minimum Newcastle and Wollongong, and potentially even a larger super region with Melbourne — and possibly even Brisbane and Canberra.
For its part, Hong Kong is feeling intense competition from cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai and the response there has been more regional cooperation. China’s Great Bay Initiative is connecting nine cities in the Pearl River Delta to the two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau, via high-speed rail. Through this, 67 million people are being connected to Hong Kong within a travelling time of only 1 hour and 15 minutes. This project is making connections across (and under) the Pearl River and in effect, Hong Kong is now becoming part of a much-broader city region.
Sydney may need to do something similar, as foreign investors look at Sydney and Melbourne and, whilst they have a great impression of them, they tend to think they are too small individually. It was said that Melbourne and Sydney are currently still arguing about who will be the biggest and most important growth region, instead of seeing the need to cooperate more for mutual benefit. Even with growth over the period to 2060, the combined population of the two cities would still only be in the region of 16 million.
By 2060, the millennial generation will have been in charge for over 20 years, so today’s young people need to be involved in the conversations around future uses of the harbour. As the average age in Sydney’s planning department seems to be between 50 and 56, we need real inclusion of the younger generations, not tokenism, to understand their perspectives and priorities. We need to think about what young people will want to do and how they will change things.
But how do we engage with the younger generations? The example was given of an architecture class being involved in discussions about how to redevelop The Bays Precinct in Sydney for the better part of a year, which led to wonderful ideas being shared.
Hong Kong is responding by planning for the short and medium terms, with an emphasis on flexible use. In Hong Kong, they are planning for design redundancy, as they don’t want to build for 30 years out, since any given building could be obsolete for its intended purpose by then.
One example illustrates this quite well: with changing technology there may be no need for large shopping centres, as people might buy nearly everything online in future. What changes would this involve for the community? This would remove a level of community interaction, so new community interactions will have to be planned and provided. It was said that empty spaces are a necessary luxury that must be included in designs and that there will also necessarily be more convergence between public and private spaces in future. As part of this, innovation and experimentation should be encouraged. This experimentation could include temporary buildings for specific purposes that can be put up and pulled down in a matter of months.
For all its strengths, one weakness of Sydney is its widespread reputation as being very expensive. This is a real concern as poor affordability discourages workers from living in a city, which curtails investment, especially from startup entrepreneurs and small businesses that find it difficult to pay high rents and employ workers on the expensive salaries needed to live in high-cost locations. Connecting Sydney to neighbouring cities, including Newcastle and Wollongong, by high-speed rail could reduce the housing pressure in Sydney and make the city more competitive.
Boston previously struggled with this problem and people were starting to leave due to the cost of living there. The city responded by mandating that 15% of any development had to comprise affordable housing and commercial and light industrial spaces.
Along with greater affordability, we need to attract venture capitalists and experienced entrepreneurs to act as mentors to startup entrepreneurs, and improved affordability will help in this regard.
In addition, cultural change is desirable as regards entrepreneurship. Tel Aviv was highlighted as a city where the startup culture was encouraged by a societal change in attitude towards startups, and that this was apparent when parents started encouraging their children to become startup entrepreneurs instead of simply going to university in an attempt to join the professional ranks.
Sydney Harbour faces both current and future challenges affecting its environment, including global warming and loss of biodiversity. Whilst governments, academics and planning authorities are evaluating and debating these potential impacts with a view to mitigating them, things can be done now to promote biodiversity. It was stated that marine infrastructure can enhance biodiversity and encourage marine life, and every effort should be made to ensure that development is compatible with a healthy marine ecosystem.
Once the foreshore is fully developed and held by private interests, including for private residences, then generally speaking it is gone forever. This has often proved to be the case in other cities, such as Manila and there is an imperative in Sydney to make sure that as much of the foreshore remains open and accessible to citizens as possible, whilst maintaining high environmental standards.
Heritage buildings should be preserved and repurposed and could help solve the challenge of affordability mentioned above. Heritage buildings are often given a new lease of life by being renovated to host startup companies and business incubators, which often value them for their aesthetic appeal and relative affordability.
By 2060, Sydney’s population is anticipated to exceed 8 million. This enormous growth needs a healthy framework if Sydney is to maintain its authenticity. As Sean Chiao, President, Asia Pacific at AECOM, said at the event, “The real complexity of cities comes from the people who inhabit them, not just from their physical environments. We need to think about building cities for future generations and to think of them as being about places to live, to create culture and to conduct business, whilst respecting the environment.”
Imagine Los Angeles
Los Angeles, a city historically challenged by water issues, is undergoing a modern infusion of infrastructure investment to secure its position as the Gateway to the Pacific.
Our event explored how the second largest city in the United States is re-shaping its relationships with the Los Angeles River, its ports, and underground aquifer to create a meaningful connection to its water, while enhancing water quality and achieving water security. As we Imagine Los Angeles in 2060, how will an enhanced, equitable and environmentally sensitive relationship with Water propel the city into its position as the American Capital of the Pacific Age?
At Imagine 2060: Imagine LA, local and international experts addressed how Los Angeles is re-shaping its relationships with the LA River, its ports and other resources to ensure the city’s vitality and resiliency in the decades ahead, and Imagine Los Angeles will explore how the City can ensure its role in the global economy while improving the quality of life of its citizens and protecting and enhancing its environment.
Speakers and Panelists
Dr. Hilda Blanco
Uwe S. Brandes
Dr. Paul Bunje
Dr. Patrick Condon
Dr. Richard Drobnick
Dr. Kian Goh
Dr. Mark Gold
John F. Kwant
Dr. Michael Mehaffy
Dr. N. Bruce Pickering
Eduardo Perez Reyes
Dr. Shan Wenhui
Dr. Brian D. Taylor
Dr. Jonathan Woetzel
Highlights from the 5th Annual PCSI Forum
The Los Angeles metropolitan region, which is comprised of five adjoining counties, is the second largest city by population in the United States and is one of the world’s largest urban areas. One of the most critically important financial, commercial, industrial and cultural centers in the world, Los Angeles, like other major cities, is experiencing a population explosion as people are drawn to the city for its economic and cultural opportunities. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as Los Angeles International Airport, also act as a channel for most of the international trade goods moving to and from the U.S., especially from Asia.
As urbanization continues in Los Angeles, the city is facing new opportunities and challenges to secure a sustainable and environmentally friendly urban future. In the decades ahead, Los Angeles will need to continue to improve accessibility, air quality, and mobility for all. The city’s commitment to redesigning the urban landscape, while investing in technology and transportation, positions it as a shining example of what cities should be doing to ensure their futures.
This year’s Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) Annual Forum was organized in association with Imagine 2060: Delivering Tomorrow’s Cities Together and examined Los Angeles’ place among the world’s great megacities as an economic and cultural hub, in large part because of its role as a waterfront city. Imagine 2060 is an original three-year global discourse series co-organized by Asia Society and AECOM designed to inspire a new way of delivering the cities of tomorrow.
The Forum brings together experts in urban planning, civil society, the private sector, academia, government, and NGOs from around the U.S., the Asia-Pacific region, and elsewhere for high-level interactive and engaging dialogues to share best practices and explore promising new approaches to developing cities that are liveable, innovative, and vibrant. The Forum is a unique opportunity to think critically, ask questions, share tools, identify new solutions, examine best practices, and build long-lasting partnerships.
Imagine New York
Life at the water’s edge is rapidly changing. The impacts of new technology, patterns of urban development, and globalization are redefining global logistics, and while some waterfront cities will thrive as ports and grow under these new conditions, others will need to evolve in order to survive and succeed. Imagining New York in 2060, how will New York re-invent its waterfront to retain and secure its position in the global economy while continuing to symbolize the American Dream for the next generation?
Imagine 2060: Imagine New York brought together city-makers and city-shapers to look towards and beyond the challenges ahead of aging infrastructure, changes to global shipping patterns, and an evolving economy.
This chapter of the Imagine 2060 series engaged participants in considering relevant lessons for New York. We looked at best-in-class case studies in Asia contributing to the region’s rise in the global ports industry, and then we pivoted to focus on bold ideas aligned with New York City’s future vision for an equitable, sustainable, and dynamic transformation of its waterfront and how to deliver these.
Speakers and Panelists
Dr. Judith Rodin
President Emerita, Rockerfeller Foundation and University of Pennsylvania
President and CEO of
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Asia Pacific, AECOM
Executive Vice President,
Tsao & McKown Architects
Senior Advisor and Emience Fellow,
President & CEO,
Baltimore Development Corporation
Boon Hui Tan
Vice President for Global Arts & Culture, Asia Society
President and CEO,
Imagine Hong Kong
Hong Kong has long been one of the world’s most iconic harbor cities. We discussed how it maintain its distinctiveness in a more integrated Greater Bay Area future.
The forum marked the culmination of the first year of our three-year Imagine 2060 series on global waterfront cities, drawing from the lessons learned to discuss visions for Hong Kong’s economy, livability and competitiveness with neighboring waterfront cities in the Pearl River Delta by 2060. This event was especially timely given Hong Kong’s latest waterfront makeover is part of a HKD12 billion initiative and the Greater Bay Area plan, announced by the Chinese Government in early 2017, paving the way for enhanced economic development across Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.