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Aerial of Adelaide city at sunrise.

The current iteration of Adelaide’s development is rising from this strong foundation. New and revitalised buildings and infrastructure are changing the shape of Adelaide; the way the city functions; and, who uses the city.

Strong strategic planning and positive leadership have combined over the past decade to see transformational projects approved and now built. After a long and relatively stagnant period, Adelaide has picked up the pace.

While that stagnancy may have been lamented at the time, in retrospect, it enabled Adelaide the breathing space for the city to properly plan for the future and to retain its essential character; something that many other cities have lost to the wrecking ball in periods of rapid economic growth.

There are some key pieces of infrastructure development that are physically reforming Adelaide. They have acted as catalysts for change, not only physically, but in the psyche of the city and its people.

Game changing infrastructure such as the extension of the tram network beyond Victoria Square, through the city, and out to the Entertainment Centre. Major iconic new developments such as the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), the Adelaide Convention Centre extension and Bowden capitalise on the connection to the tram.

While these locations were already close to train services, the accessibility of the tram network connects them to the heart of the city. More organic redevelopment has also occurred, with new hotels, apartments and office developments along King William Street in south Adelaide capitalising on the tramline connectivity.

Integrated planning for transport and land use in Adelaide has set the scene for reshaping the city, with redevelopment leveraging off the relatively high public transport connectivity of the city.

The tram extension combined with the new medical precinct will be a major catalyst for redevelopment of the currently under-developed north- western quarter of the CBD. The precinct will inject thousands of jobs and visitors into a part of the city that, until now, has largely been the domain of students and night-time revellers. Anchored by the iconic SAHMRI building, the new buildings in this precinct are putting their design stamp on Adelaide.

Across in the UniSA City West campus, edgy, architectural statements punching out from the midst of the institutional campus blancmange, adding some much needed style into what was a tired part of town. This quadrant of the city has the opportunity to reinvent itself – there are signs it has started, but it is an area to watch for investment and revitalisation.

Adding to the renewed energy injection has been the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval and the Riverbank Precinct. The stadium redevelopment has brought people back to the heart of the city in droves, with locals and visitors flocking to the city for AFL games and other major events.

The Oval revamp has skilfully updated an old Adelaide icon and connected it back to the city across the new riverbank footbridge, directly linking into the historic Central Station.

The Riverbank Precinct is Adelaide’s other next big thing. It is critical to tie together the expanding Adelaide Convention Centre and the hundreds of thousands of visitors it brings each year; the Festival Theatre; the Casino redevelopment; and to effectively connect it all to the station. There is enormous potential for improvement in this precinct, but it will need strong design and management to balance the competing demands of public use and commercialisation of space. Opening up more River Torrens-facing development presents an exciting future for Adelaide, and one that can be extremely successful if it harnesses the power of good urban design.

It’s not just the large-scale infrastructure and buildings that are changing the shape of Adelaide though. A smaller-scale change spreading through Adelaide has been the activation of our small streets.

Connecting from the train and tram, the north-south streets including Bank, Leigh and Peel have been transformed with some of Adelaide’s best new small bars and restaurants. This is spreading to other nearby streets and further south to Topham Mall and Waymouth Street, where the food and wine culture is booming. This part of the city, once dead after hours apart from the colour of Hindley Street, is thriving. Changes in policy and liquor licencing, plus the injection of relatively small investments in upgrades to the public realm have leveraged serious returns for the image for Adelaide.

Adelaide has a new lease of life. Big changes have inspired confidence and are sparking investment in both large developments and small projects. Adelaideans are seeing their city changing and are connecting with it, visiting the city perhaps more than ever before. There are exciting design challenges to be addressed if we are to get it right and capitalise on the opportunities present, but this city has talented professionals in spades. Over the next decade I predict Adelaide is going to be the city to watch.

Kristy Kelly is Chief Executive Officer, Planning Institute of Australia.

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