Adelaide is the largest city in Australia and its urban project is the biggest ever.
In the first decade of the 21st century, Adelaide has delivered more than $1.2 billion in infrastructure, including a $200 million metro extension to connect the inner-city to the suburbs, $1bn in road upgrades and $200m in pedestrian bridges.
But the city’s transformation has also been controversial, with some critics saying the project is being driven by an insatiable appetite for growth.
The city’s chief planner, John Broughton, has long spoken of an “overheated” demand for residential development.
Urban redevelopment “I don’t think that the market will ever return to normal again in the next 10 or 20 years,” he said.
“What I think is that people are not really interested in living in the city anymore.”
Broughton was speaking at the launch of a new research project examining the history of the development boom.
It is one of many projects that have been under way in the past decade in response to the “global economic crisis”, with the Adelaide CBD being the site of a number of projects to revitalise it.
Adelaide is set to be home to about 10,000 new residential units by 2030, and more than 20,000 homes are expected to be built by 2050.
But critics say the city is being run on a profit-driven system that is not sustainable.
The development boom began in the late 1990s, with the development of the new Adelaide Oval, the new South Adelaide football stadium, the Central Business District, and the new Central Business Centre.
In 2012, the then chief executive of the Urban Infrastructure Corporation (UIC), John Williams, warned that “the demand for new housing is going to be very, very, high”.
He said he had concerns about how the city was being run and “the need for a long-term solution” to the city “in the face of this oversupply of housing”.
“It seems to me that the real question for people is: where are we going to get housing?
And the answer is not in the suburbs,” Williams said.
“It is going into the city.
I don’t know if that is going on with the current mayor [Melbourne City Council] or with the council in general.”
In 2016, the City of Melbourne was the first major city to pass legislation that would allow it to seize land and redevelop it for residential use.
But Williams said that despite the “oversupply”, the city had to continue to “reinvent the wheel” of its development model.
He argued that the city needed to be “proud of” its history, because it had not had “a sustainable economic model” for over 20 years.
While Williams was critical of the current development model, the project he was referring to was not unique.
Another project that was touted as being the “biggest” of the big “urban projects” was the $1-billion Urban Project Adelaide.
A study commissioned by the city last year found that “over half of the projects proposed were ‘small’ (under $500,000).
In total, the city delivered $3.5 billion worth of infrastructure and $5 billion in projects in the first 10 years of the scheme.”
The report also found that most of the “new development” was to be residential, with a small percentage of it to be used to provide office space for the local government.
One of the key findings of the study, which was commissioned by local government to study the “potential” of new housing developments in the CBD, was that “only about 30 per cent of the planned projects will be residential”.
Critics have argued that this figure is “over-optimistic”, with some claiming that the “underutilisation” of residential land will lead to a decline in the number of residential properties in the local area.
Some have argued the project was built to “build up” the city rather than to redevelop it.