Township Development Strategies

Author: Dzung Do Nguyen- enCity’s Founder + Group Managing Director

As city centers mature over the years, developers start to look out of the city centres for development opportunities. State governments also institute growth corridors and city expansion funds to incentivize private developers, where the development of new townships may unlock land value in the outer regions and provide growth opportunities back to the state. 

Ecopark buses, source: Ecopark

Over the course of 10 years working extensively with Ecopark, our main consultant has developed a framework for achieving success in developing self-sustained townships. These frameworks have been summarised into 7 strategies as follows:

Strategic Location
The location of the new township must be close to strategic nodes within the region or located within the growth corridors planned by the urban planning department. The ability to integrate into the planned urban future of the province will allow the plan to thrive. Ecopark is a good example of this as it serves as a residential base between the main city and the port. Another example is the Suzhou Industrial Park, which serves as an industrial centre next to the booming financial centre of Shanghai. 

Right Neighbourhood Sizing and Phasing Flexibility
The right sizing of the neighbourhood is crucial not only to a healthy social fabric but also to allow business investment. The right sizing also allows provision of adequate amenities and facilities to cultivate a walkable neighbourhood. When working on Ecopark, we worked from the inside out, meaning to develop commercial activities at the core of the development phased with an average scale of 70 hectares per phase(might be confidential) to slowly scale the population. Overall, this also helped with the selling as the image and the projection of the future of the township was consistent with the change in every phrasing. 

Accommodate Housing Needs of Various Income Groups
As different demographics of the population look out of crowded city centres for alternative, liveable neighbourhoods, townships must start to accomodate the needs of various income groups through a diversity in housing products. Designing different housing products also offers a liveability that is distinctly different from mature town centres,which are appealing to the new demographic.

Connect Using Multiple Transport Options
A multi-nodal transport urban system is reflective of a progressive 21st Century township, which include shuttle bus services and seamless bicycle/pedestrian networks. This transport system would connect major employment hubs and culture destinations with buses, and further bicycle and pedestrians networks to allow greater accessibility. Moreover, the township development must be designed with road right-of-way to accomodate for future mass transit systems. Ultimately, these transport options also must accommodate for connection to regional destinations.

Engage Business to Achieve Job-Housing Balance
Creating a local economy within the townships allows residents to find employment opportunities within the township itself, rather than out of it. This allows for a higher quality of living, encourages self-sustainability and also fosters a lively community within the township. The way to achieve this is to diversify the distribution of commercial space into office, shopping malls, hospitality and different forms of small commercial options. This diversity of commercial space can also be encouraged through synergistic land use planning that create ecosystems for business to thrive in. Specifically to ecopark, the strategy is to tap into rural villages to provide labour and cultural services within the townships.

Provide Abundant Amenities Closer to Home
The provision of a myriad of social amenities increases the attractiveness and liveability of any new township development. On the urban planning front, the consolidation of land for civic use allows for a certain flexibility in the final building of these social amenities. These social amenities should be distributed within the transport network to allow quick access to public areas and residences. Townships can also offer clubhouses that provide space for social functions and more recreation options.

Enrich Lives through Design
Design remains a key way to shape the living experience of the township to reflect eco-planning sensibilities of the 21st century. The design should increase the biodiversity within the township, and also promote outdoor recreation through outdoor destinations that are strengthened by placemaking. The mixed density of the neighbourhood creates opportunities for spacious streetscapes and dedicated open spaces and green networks that also function as attractive transportation networks. These open spaces can also diversify into different environments such as parks, wetlands, golf courses, urban beaches to enrich the experiences and types of urban activities. 

Ensure Operational Sustainability
New townships today face many challenges in its everyday operations, from waste collection and disposal to stormwater and irrigation management. New townships should minimize costs of infrastructural investments and operations, but also maximize the high utilisation of these utilities, through a careful planning and allocation of these utilities. For example, in Ecopark we co-located public facilities and residential units to share carparks, reducing the overall carpark space by 25 percent. Further studies such as wind and stormwater modelling and simulation can be conducted to adequately prepare for contingencies and ensure a liveable, dynamic outdoor environment for all residences to enjoy. 

Cultivate Community Identity through Space Engagement and Programming
In building an entirely new township, the space starts off as a tabula rasa, with no memories and ideas of what the space should be. In Ecopark, the ideas of placemaking that fosters a sense of belonging, bonding between neighbours and a wider integration with neighbouring developments/ villages are of utmost importance. The public spaces can feature non-programmed and programmed spaces such as community gardens and farmers’ markets that allow for these public plazas to be regularly utilized for community gatherings. Regular festivities can also be celebrated in bigger parks, that fosters a communal identity of the place. 

Conclusions

Ecopark Phase II, source: Ecopark

Township developments remain a new form of development that developers have been willing to undertake. The 7 strategies hitherto discussed would be for naught if there are no effective collaboration between stakeholders. Experts and consultants must work together to mitigate associated risks, ensure that the township is financially implementable, and best practices within the industry are incorporated in order to best plan these townships. Then, the core principles of the design may be well maintained, and the attractiveness and liveability of the townships meaningfully increased.