Savvy Industrial Developers See Beyond ‘Big Shed’ Solutions

JB: What has to change in the industrial development sector?

AH: Developers need to reach outwards, towards people and places around their sites, and to new technologies, industries and innovations—industrial sites should be assets that deliver benefits broadly, and which make locals proud.

We all know the workforce is changing: the days of old-school “big shed” industrial parks with no amenity or public transport; of instant coffee and lukewarm Chiko Rolls, are over.

At Hoyne we refer to “District 21s”, new industrial communities with the emphasis on community. Resourced for tenant health and wellbeing, they’re ecosystems of complementary businesses in well-connected locations, sometimes on the fringe, linked to local communities, public and private institutions.

JB: What should industrial development avoid?

AH: Great developments in any category have a few things going on at once, so single-use industrial sites seem outmoded.

It’s time to stop limiting activity from 5am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and to look carefully at infrastructure like roads.

While large vehicles commonly need access, site plans can mitigate risk and increase safety for humans by incorporating access points and pathways to support healthy exercise and create dynamic atmospheres.

Ideally, sites shouldn’t be fenced off from the outside world, creating an us-and-them position locally: if they are situated beside riparian or green zones, for example, developers should exploit this for amazing outdoor amenity for precinct workers.

JB: How can developers profit most from these developments?

AH: Determine pockets of dead space and innovate with appropriate, alternative uses—not necessarily for leasing. Consider great spaces or community magnets and watch as existing and prospective tenants respond—and pay more.

Don’t be a threatening cluster of sheds and trucks surrounded by barbed wire. Be a compelling, welcoming, business-based precinct that attracts a broad audience.

Reconsider the traditional “big shed” leasing approach. If you can pay for it, you can have it. Target and curate for a specific sector, then design more allied amenity and experiences.

Introduce other categories like entertainment: take a look at Willie the Boatman at Precinct 75 in St Peters, New South Wales—this brewery is both drawcard and common amenity for P75’s tenants and locals alike.

If a site offers leeway regarding noise restrictions or access to large spaces, think about weekend markets, food trucks and events that turn an industrial park into a well-known, valuable destination.

Consider the Grounds of Alexandria in Sydney: what was once an industrial precinct is now one of Australia’s most Instagrammed places. Nearby industrial precincts and residential developments all benefit, something we’d love more councils to recognise and value in zoning applications.

Of course, these ideas don’t suit every industrial development—some are in isolated locations, some use every inch for big sheds—but more often than not, there are unrealised opportunities.

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