As published in,  27 August 2019

Place over product: Akron Property’s Andrew Harvey discusses the concept of creating a community-centric mixed use precinct

Following the launch of Tarneit’s latest mixed-use precinct development, caught up with Akron Property Development Director Andrew Harvey about the importance of creating highly walkable, connected communities – and essentially prioritising place over product. Congratulations on the launch of Keystone, Tarneit! What drew you to this site in particular?

Andrew Harvey: Akron is pleased that Wyndham understood our vision for a highly walkable, connected community to be established that brings a variety of attractive inner-urban features to this suburb.  The Planning Permit for Keystone is the result of a year of planning, urban design and detailed engineering investigations in consultation with Wyndham City Council. Akron was attracted to Tarneit because it is exceptionally well-positioned for future growth. Keystone is only 26 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD and is very close to Werribee, Hoppers Crossing and Williams Landing.  Keystone is already surrounded by established schools, shopping and community infrastructure.  Coupled with the State commitment to upgrade the adjacent railway with future station builds, the site will be an easy walk from two future railway stations at Riverdale and Tarneit West. 

U: When acquiring a site in an outer suburb, do you believe interest will be generated from those looking to commute to/from the CBD or buyers that are keen to live, work and play in Tarneit?

AH: Tarneit won’t be an outer suburb for much longer!  People who know the Western suburbs will know that Tarneit and Werribee are poised to tap into the economic development that will follow from State and local economic investment. Investors and our Keystone residents will be attracted by the close proximity to the CBD, and the established infrastructure close by.  Easy road or rail access exists to the City, Werribee, Geelong and growth areas such as Melton and Bacchus Marsh to the north.  Tarneit has simple access via the Princes Freeway to the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf Coast, enabling a genuine work-life balance.

U: If Melbourne is to become a polycentric city, do you believe the City of Wyndham is equipped to handle the urban sprawl, and accommodate the needs of new residents? 

Wyndham City has tremendous potential.  Wyndham City is one of Australia’s fastest-growing municipalities, expected to almost double in size by 2041. It is well placed on the road and rail links between Melbourne and Geelong, making it an area of great economic significance that extends beyond its own region, impacting the rest of the state and Australia. Affordable housing, geographic appeal, high birth rates, increased migration and major infrastructure investments are driving forces behind Wyndham’s position as the epicentre of western Melbourne’s population growth. This growth will transform Wyndham from a City of 257,000 people in 2018 to nearly double in size to 489,000 by 2041. According to ABS data between 2016 and 2017, Wyndham was Victoria’s largest growing municipality, increasing its population by 14,092 people, or 6.2%.

What local infrastructure is currently on the cards in the areas surrounding Keystone?

In December 2018 the Western Melbourne Group (WMG) obtained a licence from Football Federation Australia (FFA) to field a team in the national A-league, the Western United Football Club. As part of a public-private-partnership development with Wyndham City Council, WMG will deliver an international standard sporting precinct just to the west of Keystone which will include a 15,000 seat main stadium, a 5,000 seat second stadium, training pitches and high-performance centre. Adjacent to the sporting precinct on the southern side of the site, Council will also deliver the Riverdale town centre. With all of this proposed work, the construction of the Sayers Rd Railway Station in Tarneit needs to be brought forward to capitalise on this economic development opportunity. Delivering this station will allow for greater access to the privately funded 15,000 seat stadium being built and will enable business and communities in the area to thrive. The future Riverdale Railway Station at Sayers Road and the proposed Tarneit West station on Davis Road are either side of Keystone and are both within a two-kilometre stroll.

How has the urban planning agency Roberts Day assisted with the master planning process of Keystone, and what were the key takeaways from their input?

We wanted visionary urban design and planning and through our work with Roberts Day, we have tapped into best practice design philosophies through the thought leadership of Mike Day and Emma Petersen.  Placemaking has been a focus, not a cookie-cutter subdivision mentality. We wanted to bring some of the best of the city to Tarneit, and a phrase we use is “more urban than suburban”.  A key focus of this development is the evolution of specially designed elevated townhome lots, fronting leafy, tree-lined boulevards where walking, cycling and conversation with your neighbour are given higher importance.  Landscaped rear laneways, with studios above garages, will give these lots an element of lifestyle flexibility not seen in surrounding suburbs. The Keystone design will promote safer walking and cycling to school, shops and recreation as a fundamental part of everyday activity.  We can‘t wait to do some longer-term studies to measure the positive impact that our design will have on the health and wellbeing of our future residents.

Do you believe that there is enough incentive for developers to create precincts which have a strong community focus like Keystone? Or is it primarily down to company ethos?

The recent correction in the housing market means that the “fear of missing out” has lessened, and astute buyers can take their time to understand what makes a quality development.  Akron has set its ethos on seeing beyond the present day, and we want to leave a legacy of good design and great places for people to make home. Akron partners with like-minded visionary and enthusiastic design teams to incorporate leading design principles, and we try to bring the best of our favourite places in Melbourne and around the world to each Akron neighbourhood.  If we don’t design places that we’d like to live in, how can we expect others to understand our vision and make Keystone home? Akron recognises that systems like the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Rating, and the UDIA EnviroDevelopment certification can be badges which verify Akron’s commitment to sustainability and independently certify the quality of our Keystone vision. 

Akron Property Team

How do you see Keystone evolving over the years?

Akron is committed to early provision of community infrastructure, and the Riverdale North Primary school, in the heart of Keystone will be at the heart of the community. We are working with the Council to refine designs for a community hub opposite the primary school.  We see early provision of a childcare centre and kindergarten opposite the school as priorities, supported by some small shops. We will be working with innovative, quality builders to build and display innovative medium density house product and innovative home office townhouses.  We are committed to exploring a diversity of home types, for different family structures, including singles and couples. We’d love to see a range of home types that cater to different stages of life.

What do you think residents will love most about living at Keystone?

The design approach seeks to encourage physical activity, and we hope for a real sense of health and wellness to evolve. Our green streets will be planted with double rows of trees and will be attractive streets that encourage walking and cycling.  Most local streets point at the school, so we think there will be a high proportion of kids that will walk, ride, skate to school. We will relocate our sales office from Leakes Road into first completed stage, and we hope to partner with Council for some pop-up recreational facilities before council builds the dedicated Active Open Space sports ovals and facilities in years to come.  

Given your experience working on the creation of an international award-winning Ellenbrook Community in Perth, what do you think are the key features of a holistic, modern community? What would you like to see more of in new mixed-use precincts across Australia?

Authentic communities thrive on diversity. This applies to the people who live there, the building typologies and the streets, parks and urban places which will emerge.  When the developer shows a better understanding of how people want to live, houses become homes, and people become neighbours.  Compact living, useable verandahs and rooftop terraces are exciting trends that enable social interaction and community engagement.  We’d love to see radical changes in the building typologies that are accessible to people in Tarneit, and we will be working with our building partners to truly innovate.