Vital Tips

10 hot tips to build a stronger community

Transforming your local community into a better place involves a vast range of activities and disciplines.

Understanding your stakeholders and local values, strategic planning, public design and economic analysis are just some of the many elements needed to ensure the success of your infrastructure project …and long-term prosperity of your community.

Revitalising a community is not simply about streetscaping. Revitalisation must be viewed as a significant change process that improves cultural, economic and environmental vitality.

To follow are 10 tips to help you build a place-based enterprise project that delivers a stronger community:

  1. Build stakeholder synergy.
  2. Communicate.
  3. Facilitate powerful workshops.
  4. Integrate your project./a>
  5. Use art to strengthen your sense of place.
  6. Have an effective structure plan.
  7. Brand your distinctive precincts.
  8. Accelerate business development.
  9. Manage your precinct for the long term.
  10. Ensure strong project design.

Undertake our Fast-Track Audit to determine if your project is set to create place-based enterprise!


1. Build stakeholder synergy

Town centres and business precincts consist of various stakeholder groups. Successful revitalisation projects are able to create a synergy for their success through the co-ordination of stakeholder actions. This synergy of actions creates a process that often over-delivers in its ability to provide changes that were unimaginable at the beginning of the project. In revitalisation projects 1+1 will add up to 3 if you can get your ‘motley crew’ of stakeholders all heading in the same direction.

The best way to build project credibility among your local stakeholders is to ensure your process is:

  1. Accountable
  2. Transparent
  3. Explainable.

2. Communicate

Are you amazed how your project can so easily generate misinformation and unnecessary local concern? It doesn’t take much for your project to contribute to the latest ‘urban myths’ or ‘conspiracy theories’. The way you sequence and integrate the project’s design information is critical to the effectiveness of your revitalisation project.

Your project will be enhanced by actively leading and guiding the processes of:

  1. Gathering AND providing information
  2. Providing opportunities for feedback
  3. Encouraging direct input to the project.

Communicate effectively and your revitalisation project will build a foundation of understanding and ownership that will ensure sustainable success.

3. Facilitate powerful workshops

Revitalisation workshops are an exhilarating challenge of focusing the energy of divergent people. For the uninitiated it can be like ‘herding cats’.

Your workshop group will represent various stakeholders with various levels of self-interest. How do you reach consensus and deliver design excellence? A revitalisation workshop should seek to facilitate the most appropriate options for local issues based on best practice principles. It should provide learning, listening and problem solving experience for those that attend. Remember facilitation also requires ‘leadership’ and that only comes from knowing what you’re doing!

The three key principles that underpin the success of revitalisation workshops are:

  1. Vision
  2. Trust
  3. Ownership

The way you define your project’s VISION will determine how much TRUST and OWNERSHIP is engendered in your stakeholders.

4. Integrate your project

Project integration is the most challenging aspect of centre revitalisation. And most of that rests with the government agency facilitating the project. Existing management systems and structures need to change to deliver integrated projects, and that’s the hurdle that separates outstanding success from mediocrity.

Revitalisation of business precincts demands the integration of design professionals, stakeholders and the growing appreciation of ‘livability’. It requires the seamless integration of cultural, economic and physical attributes that provide the catalyst for sustainable activity. The combination of physical improvements with an integrated revitalisation strategy will fast-track social and economic outcomes.

To deliver integrated projects you need to establish new ways of implementing projects. The foundation to those new ways is driven by the following three key principles:

  1. Commitment
  2. Strong leadership
  3. Program

5. Apply placemaking to strengthen identity

Our identity is determined by our context and a revitalisation project is not any different. The integration of your community’s social and environmental history into the centre’s improvements creates a distinctive business centre. A clear structure to guide the production of art and craft character elements will maximise the benefits of ‘Art’ through better briefing and review. A collaborative outcome of design, art and local stakeholders will ensure your project delivers excellence through the celebration of ‘place’.

To ensure the best integrated outcomes for your revitalisation project it is important to have an appreciation of the following three character principles:

  1. Art
  2. Craft
  3. Decoration.

All three forms of place-making are critical in strengthening your local sense of place.

6. Have an effective structure plan

A structure plan is a broad master plan that guides public and private sector development of a business centre. It uses urban design principles to ensure all development is well integrated to improve the centre’s attraction, atmosphere and operation. Providing a guide to the location of uses and supporting transportation networks allows incremental change to be maximised. Structure planning can often highlight business centre ‘best use’, compared with individual stakeholder views that promote self-interest.

A good structure plan promotes the principles of:

  1. Land use
  2. Linkage
  3. Built form.

Land use generates the inherent activity of a town centre or business precinct. How this activity (pedestrian and vehicular) moves through your centre creates links and corridors. The destinations or nodes of activity are physically expressed in your centre’s built form. These three principles define the physical structure of typical town centres. The more you understand these principles and their interactions, the more your revitalisation project will contribute to the long-term vitality of the town and its local community.

7. Brand your distinctive precincts

Precinct branding draws its content from your project’s existing environment and placemaking outcomes. A brand developed this way will provide an authentic expression of the local sense of place. Placemaking is about creating better places for people and a precinct brand is about coordinating the communication and experience of these places. It responds to the desire to experience the distinctiveness of communities and their landscapes.

The following three principles are the foundation of precinct branding:

  1. Character
  2. Cluster
  3. Management.

The application of these principles provides the coordination of the conceptual and emotional experience of your revitalised business precinct.

This ‘brand’ experience is the outcome of blending the physical environment, the activity mix of the centre and the promotional theme of the business precinct. To maximise the benefits of Character, Cluster and Management in building your precinct brand, you will need to integrate these discreet areas with your revitalisation process.

8. Accelerate business development

A five-star streetscape will fail to generate private sector growth if it’s in front of three-star buildings with one-star businesses! To assist the design of your revitalisation project it?s important to quickly gauge the key local issues that will provide the constraints and opportunities for viable property improvements and business mixes. You can provide a useful window to the ‘economic soul’ of the centre through a tightly focused assessment of key economic indicators.

To enhance the business impact of your revitalisation project it is important to understand the principles of:

  1. Catchments
  2. Customers
  3. Cashflow.

You need to identify the present and future customers of your precinct. Where do they come from? What are they looking for? What enhancements will improve business and property values in a sustainable way?

By integrating specific business tools with your revitalisation process, you will establish a deeper understanding of the economic forces that shape your centre and how your project can be a catalyst for better business development an increased profits.

9. Manage your precinct for the long term

Moving a precinct into action is always an incredible challenge of overcoming entrenched inertia. The greatest long-term challenge to revitalisation projects is not the complexity of building them, but the longevity of any serious form of ongoing precinct management. Committee members usually burnout within three years and difficult personalities of self-interest can stop it dead! Awareness of these challenges will provide a better transition from the opening of your project to its continued growth.

To set the momentum for ongoing management by your precinct stakeholders you will need to apply the principles of:

  1. Vision
  2. Strategy
  3. Action.

Your task is to help apply the project vision through strategic actions that are embraced and delivered by your local stakeholders.

10. Ensure strong project design

The design of your revitalisation project will determine the extent of its role as a catalyst for local cultural and economic revitalisation. How well you can adapt the traditional design, document and construction process to the dynamics of your stakeholders and site constraints is a major challenge. The establishment of a core design team and critical review of options that support the principles of good design is the foundation to the successful delivery of your project.

Your project design should merge function and quality, with a focus on:

  1. Principles
  2. Process
  3. Product.

All successful projects start with sound ‘principles’ – proven truths that have emerged from long-term observations and experiences. They encapsulate a natural law of cause and effect that you can use to increase your effectiveness. The use of appropriate design principles will ensure the issues of function and quality are addressed.

Your design process will determine your effectiveness in the delivery of the end product. You will need to be vigilant to ensure your process doesn’t become an ‘end in itself’ rather than ‘a means to an end’.