Since 2000, planning authorities in Australia have overseen a massive rezoning of inner-city industrial land to make way for mixed-use residential development. They claim central industrial space is obsolete in a post-industrial economy driven by knowledge, finance, and real estate. And rezoning offers opportunities to house people near jobs and services, thereby slowing urban sprawl.
While industrial rezonings have contributed to the densification of Australian cities, they also open the door to real estate speculation and accelerate gentrification. This has forced many people to move outward in search of affordable shelter.
Rather than fostering walkable 20-minute neighbourhoods, “ghost shops” haunt many new mixed-use residential developments. And sprawl continues unabated.
Other problems stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of contemporary manufacturing. The loss of central industrial zones displaces a range of specialised manufacturers, creative producers, and small businesses. With them go the quality jobs and vital services they provide. In the process, the diversity of land uses and jobs is reduced in the very places that policymakers want it.
Can urban policy make room for manufacturing and create real diversity and a mix of employment opportunities in our cities?