On Real Estate in Sydney

As a new arrival, I have been studying the Sydney real estate market with dismay. To find housing, one typically goes through either domain.com.au or realestate.com.au. Domain is a spinout of the Fairfax newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age) but is now bigger than both. Realestate.com.au is an offspring of the rival Murdoch newspapers.

A panorama of the development near Green Square in Sydney
A panorama of the development near Green Square in Sydney

The first thing one notices about Sydney are the exorbitant prices.  Australia has not had a recession for 25 years, (though economists have predicted at least 10 of the last 3 recessions) and prices have steadily marched upward (until the last couple of months at any rate). People have come to believe in the inviolability of above normal profits in real estate investments. And obviously owners in the system hope this to be true, so there is motivated reasoning.

On the one hand, land, they aren’t making any more of it. And there is a large desire for individuals from Asia to buy real estate in Australia for a variety of reasons (as a form of wealth insurance by investing in a stable capitalist country with rule of law, to help children immigrate, just because they believe in the inevitability of ever rising prices. Further, there are politicians, presumably supported by their mates in the real estate industry, who will do anything to keep this game going, including letting people borrow from their Supa, their retirement scheme, to invest in more real estate. Sydney is certainly a desirably place, and the most desirable parts, with the highest accessibility and best views, are scarcer than inland areas.

On the other hand, most of Australia is pretty empty. In response to demands, supply is increasing in the city, there are cranes everywhere, and residential new starts are at historic highs. This should soak up the demand and, if in fact supply rises faster than demand, cause prices to drop some. Also, it is cheaper to rent than to pay the interest on a comparably valued house, much less own (excluding various tax gambits, like negative gearing)

My own view is this is a bit Bubbly. It seems like a Ponzi scheme or musical chairs, and you don’t want to be the last one entering a Ponzi scheme.  Australia has a very long coastline, other cities are less expensive, and the amenities that provide value are steadily being spatially distributed.

So we are renting, for now, perhaps forever. My sense is that capital would be better invested elsewhere (or in cash – since the stock market is overvalued as well) than in such an obvious bubble. When conditions change, we will reconsider.

The real estate market differs from the US in a few ways. Stamp duty (about 5%) on property sales is a large source of government revenue (while normal rates are lower). (Notably, this is a weak form of land value capture, especially since much of the value is in the land rather than the structure). Also there is a single land registry which makes title search pretty trivial.

Karen Strojek writes about the Torrens Title System:

The story of Torrens and the Real Property Act of 1858 is fairly well known. Torrens took an interest in reforming South Australia’s chaotic deeds-based land system when an acquaintance lost money on a property, owing to a faulty title.

With help and advice from competent friends, and a sustained campaign for conveyancing reform, Torrens won the seat of Adelaide in the first parliamentary election of 1856. His Real Property Act came into effect in 1858. Soon afterwards, Torrens resigned from government to run the new land titles registry.

Under the new system, the location and dimensions of each land parcel were to be surveyed and registered. Every new land owner received a secure grant of title, guaranteed by the Crown.

Recently there has been discussion of privatising this database. It is not clear what the value added of the private sector is here.

Renting

Most rentals appear to be handled by Real Estate Agents (while in the US, it appears far more owner-driven). The agents will list the property on the above-noted websites. This ad will include a few photos (with fisheye lenses to make it look bigger) and not include a floorplan because that would benefit the renter not the landlord (unless it is a large unit). So you can’t easily compare units before you go and see them, which is exceedingly annoying.  Even for sale properties,   which do have a floorplan, they often don’t include gross floorspace.

The Agents then set an open-house window of 15 minutes, and wait for the hordes to flood in. Strangely, many showings are scheduled simultaneously (typically Saturday morning) so people are racing around looking at properties. So you get to kick the tires for a very short period. If you are interested in one or more properties, you apply. Fortunately there is an online application that is common to most agents called 1form. Unfortunately there are competitors to 1form, so it is not the 1form to rule them all. Agents make up nonsense about it not working with their system, but I think the agencies don’t want to pay the associated fees or higher a coder.

The whole process is Dynamic Optimization. You must apply simultaneously to multiple properties, and keep looking until you put down money. If you don’t, someone will grab the property out from under you.  The agents screen the applicants and the owners than look at the applicants and then you are notified. If you are interested, you must then put down a non-refundable Holding Fee. This will apply to rent if you ultimately sign, and takes the unit off the market until the contracts are signed (or not). Obviously you don’t want to put deposits on more than one property, since then you will forfeit money.

Owning

The process of buying houses differs as well. The property is listed on the above websites. There are a few viewing times. And then there is an auction. In the US an auction is an indication of a distressed or foreclosed property. Here it is the most common way of selling.  (Though you can make an offer before the property is auctioned). The auction process seems to work for the benefit of the seller, playing on people’s emotions and excitement. It reduces the work of the agent, and clears the market faster. A standard metric that is reported about the market is auction clearances.

Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil), University of Sydney

The University of Sydney just prepared a video on our Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) program. The video is below. …

 

Civil engineering is a broad profession that combines functional solutions with creativity and innovation to improve society. Civil engineers are responsible for the design and construction of such things as buildings, towers and transport infrastructure in addition to the design and management of gas and water systems and irrigation systems.

Our Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) degree provides you with a suite of embedded technical and professional skills to create infrastructure that improves lives throughout the world.

Throughout this four-year degree you will study a series of core units as you master the foundations of civil engineering, with the option of then specialising in an optional major, including construction management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structures, transport engineering or humanitarian engineering – the first of its kind in Australia. You will have the opportunity to gain invaluable hands-on industry experience through internships as well as the option to utilise your knowledge in a engineering fieldwork trip to a developing country.

For more:  http://sydney.edu.au/courses/bachelor…

Evaluating the Safety In Numbers effect for pedestrians at urban intersections

Recently published:

Average annual 6-hour pedestrian count by location, Minneapolis
Average annual 6-hour pedestrian count by location, Minneapolis

Highlights

  • Collision risk at 448 intersections in the city of Minneapolis, MN was assessed.
  • The Safety In Numbers phenomenon was observed for both pedestrians and cars.
  • Maps of per-pedestrian crash rates inform discussion of safe vs. unsafe city areas.

Abstract

Assessment of collision risk between pedestrians and automobiles offers a powerful and informative tool in urban planning applications, and can be leveraged to inform proper placement of improvements and treatment projects to improve pedestrian safety. Such assessment can be performed using existing datasets of crashes, pedestrian counts, and automobile traffic flows to identify intersections or corridors characterized by elevated collision risks to pedestrians. The Safety In Numbers phenomenon, which refers to the observable effect that pedestrian safety is positively correlated with increased pedestrian traffic in a given area (i.e. that the individual per-pedestrian risk of a collision decreases with additional pedestrians), is a readily observed phenomenon that has been studied previously, though its directional causality is not yet known. A sample of 488 intersections in Minneapolis were analyzed, and statistically-significant log-linear relationships between pedestrian traffic flows and the per-pedestrian crash risk were found, indicating the Safety In Numbers effect. Potential planning applications of this analysis framework towards improving pedestrian safety in urban environments are discussed.

Keywords

  • Pedestrians;
  • Safety;
  • Collisions;
  • Urban planning

Street wars 2035: can cyclists and driverless cars ever co-exist? | Guardian Cities

Laura Laker at Guardian Cities writes: Street wars 2035: can cyclists and driverless cars ever co-exist? | Guardian Cities

“Driverless cars appear unstoppable – except of course you can simply walk in front of one and force it to brake. Could this conundrum eventually mean a return to a dystopian world of segregated urban highways?”

I was interviewed, my quotes below …

A visualisation of data captured by an autonomous vehicle. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters
A visualisation of data captured by an autonomous vehicle. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Or how about prosecuting pedestrians or cyclists who get in the way of driverless cars? David Levinson, a professor at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, is broadly supportive of AVs, but says: “It’s very big brother like, there’s a question of safety v freedom. How much risk to endanger yourself are we going to let you take?”

Thinking back to the kids stopping driverless cars on our imaginary future street, Levinson sees a future where blocking a driverless car could even be criminalised. “The car has a camera and the picture will be sent to the police department, and the police department will come and arrest you for annoying an autonomous vehicle.”

Given these challenges, experts including Hickman and Levinson believe segregation and AV-only roads are inevitable. But wouldn’t that risk a return to the urban dystopia of the 1960s and 70s, when planners crisscrossed cities with elevated highways and erected barriers around roads with the aim of improving safety? The unintended consequences were fast, aggressive driving, and the splitting in two of countless communities.

“I think there will be some roads that will be transformed to higher speed roads,” says Levinson. “I’d be sceptical of someone who says we will not do any of that. But if you can move traffic away from the lower speed streets that pedestrians and cyclists want to use, that’s an improvement.”

Hickman believes “the case is overwhelming against AVs” but fears the powerful motor industry lobby means there is so much private and government money already at stake that the rise of driverless cars would be hard to stop.

The Sorry Urban Interface of the Metropolo Hotel in Shanghai

In my recent visit to Shanghai I stayed at the Metropolo Hotel near Tongji University (map), China’s leading architecture and planning school, courtesy of the university. The hotel inside was cromulent, but the interface with the street is cringe-worthy. You are only expected to approach via automobile (presumably taxi). You are not to come on foot. The hotel is nicely situated on a corner, you would think there would be a welcoming entrance for pedestrians approaching from that corner, since that is where you would come if you were arriving by Shanghai’s excellent metro system (shown by the M on the map) which connects intercity trains and airports, with a station only a few hundred meters away. Instead, you are forced to squeeze past an automobile gate 25 m beyond the corner on the north-south or east-west street, at the edge of the site, and then backtrack to the doors of the actual hotel building. While doing so you walk in a driveway that is functionally a shared space, but clearly designed for cars given its asphalt overlay.

Map of Jinjiang Metropolo Hotel Shanghai, near Tongji University
Map of Jinjiang Metropolo Hotel Shanghai, near Tongji University
Corner of Metropolo Hotel at night. Instead of a sign and a barrier, there should be a pedestrian entrance.
Corner of Metropolo Hotel at night. Instead of a sign and a barrier, there should be a pedestrian entrance.
A closeup of the corner barrier, in daytime. Those steps don't lead to an openly accessible corner, but to the driveway.
A closeup of the corner barrier, in daytime. Those steps don’t lead to an openly accessible corner, but to the driveway.
The driveway, may be appealing to automobiles, not much to walk through.
The driveway, may be appealing to automobiles, not much to walk through.
The auto gate is in the distance.
The auto gate is in the distance.

Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Sydney

School of Civil Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies
Reference no.1048/0517

  • Be valued for your exceptional knowledge and experience in Engineering Transport
  • Great opportunity for a scholar with expertise in Transport Engineering
  • Full time continuing role (remuneration package: $120-170k p.a. which includes leave loading and up to 17% super)

About the opportunity
Applications are invited for the appointment of a Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in the area of Transport in the School of Civil Engineering, within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, to coincide with the launching of a transport major as part of the civil engineering undergraduate program. We are seeking candidates with an outstanding record of research and scholarship with proven and substantial research expertise in transport engineering areas of interest to the school, including, but not limited to, Traffic Engineering, Transport Planning, Freight Transport, Public Transport, Active Transport, Travel Behaviour, Highway Engineering, and Transport Safety Engineering.

The School of Civil Engineering is introducing a Major in Transport Engineering in the BE (Civil) degree program in 2017. You will work collaboratively to implement the new Transport Engineering Major and lead a Transport Engineering research group. You will have opportunities to collaborate with researchers in the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS), which resides in the Business School of the University of Sydney, www.sydney.edu.au/business/itls, and has achieved worldwide recognition for its research and teaching on transport and logistics management. You will be also expected to engage with the wider research community related to transport engineering within the engineering faculty and other faculties in the University.

About you
The University values courage and creativity; openness and engagement; inclusion and diversity; and respect and integrity. As such, we see the importance in recruiting talent aligned to these values in the pursuit of research excellence. We are looking for a Lecturer / Senior Lecturer with:

  • a PhD Civil Engineering or related discipline
  • teaching experience at tertiary level
  • excellent academic administration skills
  • excellent teamwork and communication skills to work with a broad range of internal and external stakeholders.

You will be responsible for teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in one or more of the areas of transport and the supervision of research students in these and other specialist areas. You should be able to demonstrate a commitment to high standards of teaching and to the maintenance of academic standards in a broadly based civil engineering school. The school is committed to increasing its research output and to increasing the number of research students.

About us
Since our inception 160 years ago, the University of Sydney has led to improve the world around us. We believe in education for all and that effective leadership makes lives better. These same values are reflected in our approach to diversity and inclusion, and underpin our long-term strategy for growth. We’re Australia’s first university and have an outstanding global reputation for academic and research excellence. Across our campuses, we employ over 6000 academic and non-academic staff who support over 60,000 students.

We are undergoing significant transformative change which brings opportunity for innovation, progressive thinking, breaking with convention, challenging the status quo, and improving the world around us. 



The University of Sydney encourages part-time and flexible working arrangements, which will be considered for this role.

For more information about the position, or if you require reasonable adjustment or support filling out this application, please contact Dan Kuhner, Recruitment Consultant, on +61 2 8627 0934 or dan.kuhner@sydney.edu.au.

If you would like to learn more, please refer to the Candidate Information Pack for the position description and further details.

To be considered for this position it is essential that you address the online selection criteria. For guidance on how to apply visit: How to apply for an advertised position.

Closing date: 11:30pm 30 July 2017 (Sydney Time)

The University of Sydney is committed to diversity and social inclusion. Applications from people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; equity target groups including women, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ; and people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, are encouraged.

If we think your skills are needed in other areas of the University, we will be sure to contact you about other opportunities.

The University reserves the right not to proceed with any appointment.

Candidate Information Pack

Selection Criteria

How to apply:

 

Official Post:

http://sydney.nga.net.au/cp/index.cfm?event=jobs.checkJobDetailsNewApplication&returnToEvent=jobs.processJobSearch&jobid=C76C1113-5F47-41EB-A669-A78200902649&CurATC=EXT&CurBID=949319bc-8898-4f11-ac4b-9db401358504&jobsListKey=8f81f529-635c-44c7-9d13-eb67f5f4eb7b&persistVariables=CurATC,CurBID,jobsListKey&lid=45133800008

On Trams in Sydney

‘Trams’ is the generic Australian term for smaller trains that in the US are called streetcars (in a shared right of way) and light rail (in an exclusive but usually not separated right-of-way).

The history of trams in Sydney dates from 1879-1961. Notably the early trams (dubbed the Juggernaut) were steam powered, as electric power was not yet feasible. Trackage peaked at 291 km in 1923 (the same year as the peak in the US), and ridership peaked in 1945 (also the same year as the US) with over 400 million rides per year, served by up to 1600 cars on the network at any peak times. Voommaps has developed a high-quality stylised map of the peak network.

Books about Trams and Transit in Sydney
Books about Trams and Transit in Sydney. I acquired these (for work, on behalf of the University) from the Sydney Bus Museum, in what may have been their customer largest purchase, ever.

Famously Melbourne kept its trams while Sydney engaged in ‘bustitution‘, converting its Tram routes to buses. Unlike the US, there does not seem to be too much nostalgia for Sydney’s disbanded network of trams, perhaps because residential mobility is so high, and so few people lived (or parents lived) in Sydney in the 1940s or 1950s when trams were still running.

On the other hand, the flexible bus networks seem to accumulate circuity in a way that hard-coded tram networks would find difficult. It would be difficult to reroute trams in order to serve a local constituent to the detriment of the system performance as a whole, while buses are easily changed, and these changes seem hard to reverse.

Yet the idea of trams remains more popular than the reality of buses. Some of this is idealisation, some of this is differences in quality of service that are associated with the mode rather than services, and some of this is a real difference in ride quality. This is true so much that a proposed electric bus rapid transit service was pitched as a “trackless tram“.

Bus planning in Sydney. Map via @Kypros1992 in Twitter
Bus planning in Sydney. Map via @Kypros1992 in Twitter

Sydney built its first modern light rail line (L1) along an old circuitous goods line in 1997 and extended it in 2014.

A second, more significant line (L2 and L3, denoting the two branches) is now under construction from the city along the George Street spine to the Southeastern suburbs down the Anzac Parade, serving the University of New South Wales. This is a dense corridor with a lot of potential demand, and I suspect it will be busy from day one in 2019, and in retrospect, there will be significant regret that it was not a Metro. The shopping district on George Street is being pedestrianized as the tracks are being laid.

The new light rails are designed L1, L2, and L3 (the L for LRT), but people still call them trams.

Sydney Light Rail line L1.
Sydney Light Rail line L1.

Sydney’s second CBD is planned to have another set of lines radiating from the core in Parramatta. The LRT networks will apparently not interconnect directly, at least not in existing plans, but both will connect with Sydney Trains (and perhaps the Metro if the Sydney Metro West line is ever built connecting Sydney with Parramatta). Uncertainty about whether the Metro will be constructed has reduced the size of the Parramatta network, as the eastern leg of the system serves similar areas to the proposed Metro, so they don’t want to build both at the same time. Of course the Metro will have greater station spacings, so the LRT and Metro don’t necessarily compete as much as they complement, but it is an issue in a world with scarce resources, even in Australia. While one could easily imagine extending an LRT eastward along Parramatta Road to the University of Sydney and on to the City somewhere, especially if it were sufficiently separated from the Metro Line, the ‘trackless tram’ serves the same function, and the government can’t do both.

A bi-radial system, with hub and spoke systems centered on different CBDs eventually joining is in fact how the Streetcars in the Minneapolis- St. Paul region evolved.

Another line was mooted from Barangaroo to the University of Sydney, but this proposal has been returned to the sheds.

Is Melbourne better for having kept its trams? I suspect most people would say yes, but I am not convinced. Would Sydney have been better off if it had kept its trams? This is less obvious. Though the cities are similarly sized, if dissimilar topographically, the transit mode share in Sydney (23%) is notably higher than Melbourne (16%). This is due in part to more trains, but Sydney’s buses (+trams+ferries) outperform Melbourne’s trams (+buses+ferries) in journey to work trips as well.

On Shopping in Sydney

Sydney is a consumer city. Because of the relatively high residential density, you don’t need to walk too far to run into a High Street. Further, the economy here is geared to consumption. This is aided by the large visitor and tourist population, but is true for full-time residents as well. Stores are smaller on average than the US, but there appear to be more of them (per capita). So there are successful shopping malls, and not just ‘festival market places’ inside the city, which has been more difficult to execute in the US.

Several things to note:

  1. Unlike the US, many Australian Malls have grocery stores or “supas”, short for supermarket, notably: Aldi, Coles, Harris Farms, Woolworths, as well as butchers, bakers, fruit-stands, ethnic food specialists, and fishmongers.
  2. Instead of upmarket department stores, malls have junior department stores (K-Mart, Target, also Woolworths/Big W).
  3. Woolworths is still an ongoing concern here, and seems to be doing relatively well, at least in the supermarket sector. Things I learned: there is no relation among the various Woolworths internationally. The South African and the namesake Australian chains both separately stole the name of the US F.W. Woolworths in an era where trademarks and intellectual property were less well defended,  (see this list for an untangling).
  4. Target serves the market that K-Mart serves in the US. Like Woolworths, there is no relationship between US Target and Australia’s Target, locals just stole the name, so it appears we are still in the era where trademarks are not internationally defendable. It is owned by Wesfarmers, one of Australia’s largest companies that started as a cooperative to serve farmers in Western Australia (logically enough) and is now listed on the stock exchange.
  5. K-Mart serves the market that Target does in the US. It is also owned by Wesfarmers. It was originally a joint venture between Coles and the US Kresge (the owner of K Mart), so the name is rightfully theirs.
  6. Amazon has not yet invaded the market, but is expected to enter this year. This has the retail sector very nervous.
  7. Food courts are common, and malls have more eating establishments per square meter than the US.
  8. Prepared (i.e. Restaurant) Food Delivery is huge in Australia, with a number of companies in this sector: Deliveroo, Foodora, Uber Eats, among others. I have not used them. I had thought given the suffix, Deliveroo was an Australian company, but apparently it is an import. Many of the deliverers use bikes.
  9. Most High Streets are doing well, and most Malls are adjacent to High Streets.
  10. Some malls are integrated with transit (Bondi Junction, Chatswood, Parramatta), others are nearby, but not fully integrated (Broadway, Ashfield, Liverpool, Queen Victoria Building).
  11. Some parking ramp/garage space has been converted to shops (Harris Farms, a Whole Foods-like store at lower prices) at Broadway, a Chinese supermarket at Ashfield), as shown in the Figure
    Ming's supermarket in the parking garage of Ashfield Mall. The future of parking structures is to be reclaimed for alternative uses.
    Ming’s Fish and Meat Market in the parking garage of Ashfield Mall. The future of parking structures is to be reclaimed for alternative uses.

    . So while the value of store space outweighs the value of car storage space, store space can be expanded into the parking structure, as awkward as that seems (and it is awkward)

  12. Each bank is in each mall (This is unlike the US, but there are fewer banks here)
  13. Australia Post is often at the Mall.
  14. Each cell phone company is in each mall (This is like the US).
  15. There are still white goods stores in the mall. These have been mostly driven out in the US.
  16. Malls have more services in general (barbers, locksmiths)
  17. The malls tend to be more multi-story than the US, especially after considering parking ramps. The Mall of America is only 4 stories. Much smaller malls here go 5 or 6.
  18. Westfield owns a lot of the malls here. They also have a brightly lit sign on top of the Sydney Tower. They are buying and rebranding malls in the US. I think it best that Malls be named after their community, not have a generic corporate brand, just as Department Stores ought to have a historically local name.

 

US Malls are traditionally dominated by anchor department stores. In Sydney I have only been to one upmarket department store chain, Myer, (whose parent company at one time owned Coles grocery store, before Myer was sold) which is not in every mall, or even most of them, and it doesn’t seem to be doing so hot. Grace Bros was a former Sydney-based  department store chain, acquired by Myer (a Melbourne-based chain) and subsequent rebranded.  Unhappiness ensued (shades of Dayton’s / Mashall Fields / Macy’s) Some former Grace Bros sites have been converted to shopping malls with a variety of stores, including notably Bondi Junction and Broadway.

There is also a Dept. store chain David Jones (not David Bowie), owned by South Africa’s Woolworths (not Australia’s)

US Malls and planning in general could learn a lot from the arrangement of retail activities in Sydney.


Thus far I have been to the following shopping malls.

(w) indicates Westfield managed property.


Now, there is a dispute on Wikipedia about whether shopping centres in Sydney are notable. Many smaller centres are included in the world’s best online encyclopaedia. Yet, the following page was deleted for “non-notability” (a bogus criterion inconsistently applied if there ever was one). Now, I am not saying the perfectly innocuous Ashfield Mall is as notable as George Washington or a third-tier Pokemon character or the latest single of a soon-to-be-forgotten pop star, but thousands of people use it daily both for shopping and as a community centre, it no doubt is recorded in many places like the local newspaper and public documents, and it is easily verified, thus it is notable locally even if it is not so scandalous as to warrant much easily accessed internet newspaper coverage.

Wikipedia deletionists seem to pride themselves in the destruction of work of others and discouraging contributors, with unanimous decisions of 3 or 4 people on a kangaroo court being sufficient to destroy labor, with a process so painfully bureaucratic only those with low value of time are able to pursue it, so I will undermine their deleterious behaviour by putting the page here for posterity. (Wikipedia used to be fun).

Ashfield Mall is a shopping centre in the suburb of Ashfield in Sydney’s Inner West. It is located 10 km away from Sydney CBD and is located near Ashfield Railway Station.

History

Ashfield Mall opened in 1981 on the former Ashfield Town Hall (which was demolished in the 1980s).[1] It included four anchor tenants – Coles, Franklins, Target and Kmart. Ashfield Mall was acquired by Abacus Property in September 1997. Target closed its store in 2006 due to poor sales and Ashfield Mall underwent redevelopment which included the addition of a Woolworths supermarket & addition of specialty shops on the former Target store.[2] In 2013, Ashfield Mall underwent a redevelopment which included a new food court with a contemporary décor that included a sushi bar, enclosed eating area, brighter lighting and an Aldi store which opened on the former Franklins store. The redevelopment was completed in August 2013.[3][4] Ashfield Mall is currently undergoing a redevelopment which sees buildings of 101 apartments and refurbishment of the main entry into the shopping centre. Stage 2 encompassing the additional 6,500m2 of retail GFA and childcare centre is expected to commence in 2017 and the 67 serviced apartments in late 2017, early 2018.[5]

Stores

Ashfield Mall currently has around 80 stores including anchors such as Aldi, Coles, Kmart and Woolworths.

References

External links

Ashfield Mall official website

 

Observations of Wuhan

After my visit to colleagues at Southeast University in Nanjing, I very fast trained over to more colleagues at the Wuhan University of Technology in Wuhan, another of China’s Furnace cities (so-called because of steel production, or because it is so hot). I spent about three days in Wuhan (and two in Enshi), and at least some of that was spent inside university classroom buildings and hotel rooms, so this is a more limited exploration of the city.

Chinese High-speed train
Chinese High-speed train
HSR Train Ticket in China (Nanjingnan to Wuhan)
HSR Train Ticket in China (Nanjingnan to Wuhan). Train G579, Date 2017-05-26. Time of departure 07:56. Train Car 9. Seat 3c. Cost 205.5 RMB

The high-speed rail in China appeared very efficient and was on-time. The only complaint I have is that the tickets were in Chinese instead of dual-language (i.e. no English), though once you knew how to read a ticket, that sorted itself out. Also unlike the aviation system, there are few international users of the the HSR, and very few English-speaking staff. The trains are apparently speed-limited as an ineffective response to the crash in 2011. This can be thought of as safety theatre as the slower speed is still insufficient for a train to safely brake to a stop under circumstances that might lead to the crash. It supposedly will be uncapped later this year.

IMG_6620
Panorama from Wuhan University of Technology

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, and the conurbation of three older cities (Hankou, Hanyang, Wuchang) is larger than all metro areas in the US except Los Angeles and New York, yet until this post, most of you have never heard of it, or at best have a vague impression, as it only ranks 9th in the Chinese league tables (ranked by urban population). Wuhan is in China’s Midwest heartland, it is an industrial city, centred like Detroit on the auto industry, though more analogous to Chicago in importance. It is a way station on the path from Shanghai to Chengdu (Szechuan) and Tibet, places you probably have more familiarity with.

Map of Concessions Area along Yangtze River
Map of Concessions Area along Yangtze River

I am almost convinced that one other colleague and I were the only westerners in the city at the time of our visit (which may be an exaggeration, but not much), though the University had some exchange students from Middle Eastern countries. I won’t go so far as to say we were the only westerners ever to visit Wuhan, as that is certainly false (my father has been). When we visited Enshi, we were the only ones in the entire very crowded Grand Canyons national park. This is in stark contrast with Beijing and Shanghai.

Wuhan is more polluted and less beautiful than Nanjing. It lacks the ubiquity of streets trees that make much of Nanjing liveable.  It is also seemingly less wealthy, and the people are less well-dressed. It is also growing faster, with a Metro of the same vintage and design as Nanjing. There are coordination issues, as can be seen with the photo of the people’s road agency’s widened street running into a high-voltage power pylon that the people’s electricity utility saw fit to keep unmoved.

The Chinese have what I call a ‘Learned Obliviousness’. When walking across the street, a parking lot, a shared bike path/sidewalk, or even a nominally unshared sidewalk, in China, you cannot hesitate, as that pause will be taken advantage of. Like sharks who must be in continuous motion lest they drown, the pedestrian,, like all vehicles must keep moving. While you as a pedestrian must be aware of your surroundings, you cannot give ground. Everyone is continuously in motion, flowing like the water in a river, where the horn is the basic technology version of connected vehicles “here I am” broadcast, creating a noisy environment.

The most interesting thing I saw was the Concessions area, including the Customs House Museum. I don’t think even people from the Middle East do ‘Righteous Indignation’ better than the Chinese, who are still bitterly complaining about events more than 150 years ago.  The concessions were the result of the Opium Wars, where as the Customs House Museum more or less explains, the dastardly British and their inhumane need for addictive tea resulted in a trade imbalance they tried to solve by drugging the Chinese with far more addictive Opium, and which the otherwise great Chinese people could not resist due to weak leadership of the Qing Dynasty. This seems reasonably accurate. So as a result of the treaties settling this war and related incursions, the British, the Russians the French, the Germans, and the Japanese (from south to north) received concessions in Hankow, along the Yangtze River, territory where they could operate with impunity. The British held on until 1929, the others were retaken by the newly Nationalist Chinese earlier. The nationalist revolution came to Wuchang early, though today Wuhan seems a Communist Party stronghold (in contrast with Shanghai and Nanjing at least).

The street in front of the Customs House Museum has become the main high-end shopping street in town, Jianghan Road.

An award winning bus street runs more or less along the western edge of the concessions. While that street has electric buses, the older diesel buses sound asthmatic. More photos of Wuhan can be found here. In some of them you can see the reason behind the local expression “People Mountain, People Sea”.

Along some streets, classical walls were being introduced or restored. I am not sure if the aim is aesthetics, sound proofing, or reducing business for annoying shops.
Along some streets, classical walls were being introduced or restored. I am not sure if the aim is aesthetics, sound proofing, or reducing business for annoying shops.
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The modern Wuhan Metro