by Neometro

Curbing the Urban Sprawl

Ideas - by Open Journal

Open Journal continued the conversation on High Density Happiness at Jewell Station with a panel discussion on Curbing the Urban Sprawl in partnership with Open House Melbourne. The Editor of Open Journal was joined by James Tutton, Director of Neometro, Jeremy McLeod of Breathe Architecture and Aoife Kealy from VicTrack.

Urban sprawl in Australia is a critical challenge to the sustainability of our cities, not only from a transport perspective, but from the perspective of secure food resources and supporting resilient, well connected communities.

The panel discussed:

The urban spread in Melbourne has caused us to build over our farming land, pushing people further away from their jobs and ‘main street’ communities under the guise of affordability. However the costs of living further out must be considered say over 30 years, rather than just the price of the house and land. The costs associated with cars and commuting must be taken into account, not to mention the social costs of disconnected community having an insidious effect on mental health.

We have the challenge of re-calibrating the Great Australian Dream of owning a stand-alone house on a large block. Families living in a three bedroom apartments are increasing, while vertical schools, if done well, are positive for urban living.

VicTrack are releasing a range of government owned sites along train lines throughout Melbourne with the intention to develop sustainable transport orientated housing for our growing population. Planning here is critical, existing transport infrastructure gives a strong basis to support increased density, especially in communities where existing services including education and health are readily available.

Photo: Tom Ross

Photo: Tom Ross

To best plan increased density in established suburbs community consultation is paramount. Whilst planning the New Urban Village at Jewell Station- a project Neometro won to develop in partnership with VicTrack, public feedback stated that open space is essential, hence the focus of Jewell Station has been on incorporating an active open space that connects residents with a wide variety of retail, sustainable transport and the arts. There is an evolution towards living closer together being a good thing, well considered apartment living providing a platform for pedestrian centric cities, where walking and cycling to run errands and socialise takes precedence over car dependency.

Jeremy McLeod lives in his famed Commons project adjacent to Anstey Station in Brunswick. His transport habits changed upon moving in as he was closer to everything. There were some nerves about getting rid of their car, with the Commons being without dedicated resident’s car parking, but they don’t miss it. His wife worried about losing her freedom when they sold their car, but she has new-found freedom from not being stuck in traffic and never having to search for a parking space. “You need to embrace the changes when moving into a smaller space,” agreed the panel.

A tendency noted by both Jeremy and James of Neometro, is that similar people with similar values who are looking for the same offerings, tend to buy and move into the same apartment buildings. For that reason, there is a strong chance of connecting with neighbours and building friendships.

Photo: Tom Ross

Photo: Tom Ross


The concept of Neometro’s High Density Happiness series is based on such an idea. Inspired by a paper published through the National Heart Foundation on building well-being through the essential treatments of thermal mass, acoustics, durable materials, access to natural light and cross ventilation, the paper makes a strong case for the health benefits of well designed apartment living.

In Melbourne we tend to assume a home is a detached suburban house, yet we readily accept that for residents of Barcelona, New York, Paris and Rome that an apartment is not only an adequate home, but vital to the vibrancy of the city. There needs to be a change in the social norms of aspiring to a house versus an apartment. The shift to accept apartment living will happen organically, however it is the advocacy of groups such as Jeremy’s Nightingale model and Neometro’s New Urban Village at Jewell Station that is contributing to the public debate.

To learn more about joining the New Urban Village at Jewell Station, register your interest at


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