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More commerce the trick to a vibrant city

City of Seattle principal urban designer Lyle Bicknell has advice for Perth.
City of Seattle principal urban designer Lyle Bicknell has advice for Perth.Picture: Picture: Michael Wilson

Attracting more businesses to the central business district — and as a result more jobs and more residents — would make Perth a more prosperous and vibrant city.

Visiting Seattle urban planner Lyle Bicknell said diversifying the make-up of the CBD would also help protect the city in times of economic downturn.

It would bolster tourism and add to the profitability of CBD retail. But the move would be contrary to the current thinking in many cities to send jobs into the suburbs.

“More businesses means more people,” Mr Bicknell said. “If you can house them close to where they work, the city stays alive beyond 5.05pm every day.”

He said while Perth’s fortunes have rested with the State’s oil and gas industry, Seattle relied for many years on the fortunes of aviation company Boeing.

When that waned in the 1970s, the city realised the importance of trying to attract different businesses. This led to companies such as Amazon, Starbucks and Expedia moving in, which created diversity and vibrancy. Down at heel parts of the city were rejuvenated.

Mr Bicknell, who is in WA for the Committee for Perth, is Seattle’s principal urban designer, with the responsibility of creating successful, multi-modal neighbourhoods around the city’s new light-rail stations.

He said light rail had improved the liveability of inner-city Seattle. The first line from the airport to the city opened in 2008. A public referendum had recently approved the $52 billion expansion of the system, with the money largely to be raised from car registrations.

Mr Bicknell said light rail would boost Perth. Connections to hospitals and education facilities would ensure it remained popular throughout the day and not just during peak periods.

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