Below is Bondi Innovation Alliance’s submission to Waverley Council for its Community Strategic Plan 2022-2032.
For a prosperous, vibrant future Waverley needs to provide substantial support to businesses in the innovation, technology, and creativity sectors. The region is packed with an extraordinary array of talent who work in these industries, much of which either commutes to central Sydney or works from home. The potential for Waverley to be a world-class innovation centre is real, but it will take concerted effort and support.
Talented innovators seek to collaborate and learn from each other. Ecosystems are enabled through community initiatives, events, and the places where these can happen. Waverley needs affordable, contemporary, cool spaces to be available for gatherings, meetups, and events.
There is an extraordinary confluence of amazing innovators around Bondi Beach, however space is highly limited. The new Bondi Pavilion could be an excellent place for focused, high-value innovation meetups and events, for example those organised by Bondi Innovation Alliance.
Business at scale in Bondi Junction
Bondi Junction is the only place in Waverley where initiatives of substantial scale can be built. It is of course also the focal hub of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, which includes 300,000 residents, and many of the most successful tech entrepreneurs in Australia.
It is critical context that Waverley must work hard to hit the job targets of the District Plan, which are endangered by ongoing loss of employment floorspace. The only way to build demand and supply for commercial space in Bondi Junction is to build a critical mass of interesting, exciting businesses that create reasons for other companies to co-locate for knowledge sharing and exchange.
Working towards an innovation precinct
It is an imperative for Waverley to work towards creating an innovation precinct in Bondi Junction, which will include not only extensive space for innovative startups, but also outposts for major universities, startup hubs, research organisations, and global centres of excellence for major corporations. Together they will create compelling reasons for both major creative and technology companies and startups to locate in Bondi Junction, close to where many of their employees live. This will be designed a satellite and complement to the established startup sectors in central Sydney, supporting Sydney’s global innovation story by drawing in world-renown of Bondi.
The minimum space for such a precinct is 4,000 sqm. As a reference point, Sydney’s TechCentral has 250,000 sqm for startups and Sydney Startup Hub has 17,000 sqm. Adelaide, which has four times the population of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, has an 18,000 sqm Innovation Hub in the heart of the city as well as a 61-hectare Innovation District and other substantive initiatives.
One starting point would be for Waverley Council to include a minimum non-residential floor space ratio (FSR) for the B4 Mixed Use zone in Bondi Junction. For example, this could include that every development within this zone will be required to provide a minimum amount of floor space for commercial, business, retail or health related uses with a focus on innovation or knowledge intensive uses. Alternatively, this could be a specific requirement for any large-scale development, which could provide the foundation for an innovation precinct in one initiative.
A creative, vibrant lifestyle
In addition, creative people want to spend time in inspiring locations. For Waverley to prosper as an innovation region, it must be a cool place to hang out, including diverse arts and culture, funky bars, and an edgy and vibrant night life.
At Bondi Innovation Alliance we believe there is a compelling opportunity to develop a thriving world-class creative and technology sector in Waverley. This will necessarily require recognition of the potential and substantive support from Waverley Council. The rewards will be exceptional, in building a more diverse, innovative, resilient and prosperous local economy, and making Waverley one of the best places in the world not just to live, but also to work and build businesses.