Frenchs Forest is at the crossroads of Sydney’s Northern Beaches and has the capacity to accommodate new employment and housing as a strategic centre for the region. Working with the Department of Planning & Environment and Northern Beaches Council, the challenge was how to create a high-density, sustainable centre within a low-density, suburban context fragmented by large roads. Through using the below urban design characteristics, this could be achieved.
The essential characteristics of the place and context are carried forward in the design. These include capitalising on its elevated topography to provide outlook over the city, revitalising the forest, and retaining elements of Forest High School to acknowledge the social impact of 60yrs at this site.Other aspects of the site’s history including aboriginal heritage, timber getting, orchards and brick pits can be interpreted and become elements of the buildings and public domain. The broader connection to the natural assets of the region, including Bantry Bay, Manly Dam, Narrabeen Lagoon and the localNational Parks, play a critical role in strengthening the sense of place.
With additional floor space to be accommodated within the Frenchs Forest Precinct, the perceived bulk and height of the buildings is carefully managed.In doing so, the streets have a human scale, existing residents remain comfortable and future residents can enjoy high amenity.
Connectivity is addressed at two levels. Firstly, there are a range of assets and established communities within the vicinity of the centre that need to be linked via the “Green Grid’ with inviting pedestrian and cycleways to realise the value of these assets for a pedestrian-based community. Secondly, public transport must be improved in service levels and accessibility.This will ensure easy access to the Town Centre, supporting business growth and associated increasing employment rates. A key future opportunity is to connect Frenchs Forest into the Sydney Metro train system via a rapid bus link to Chatswood.
Health and Education
With the Northern Beaches Hospital now open, the broader business park is poised to evolve as medical related corporate businesses invest alongside the hospital. To further prime this investment, establishing tertiary education providers within the centre with a focus on health-related education and research can bring innovation and amplify the attractiveness of the centre to health-related professionals and businesses.
Public Domain and Community
The outcome of the project must be a high-quality public realm comprising a diversity of spaces and community facilities that satisfy the community’s recreational needs while providing an inviting environment for formal and informal socialising. These are the critical elements for an enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle and the building of community. The features of the new town centre will be the Village Green and Piazza, Community Hub, flexible community/public space, a fresh food courtyard and active streets & laneways.