My vision was so out of the box, a new idea.Natalie Stevens
A Warrnambool developer has turned a Mandala artwork into a unique 400-lot housing development proposal for the city's north that is touted as a "game-changer".
The city council unveiled its plan for gas-free environmentally friendly sub-divisions for the land off Aberline Road this month, and it was out of that concept Natalie Stevens came up with the idea to create something a little bit different for Warrnambool.
While the structure report says the strict criteria for land may prompt kick back from some landowners, Mrs Stevens said it actually inspired her to come up with a design for a diverse housing community on the family-owned land bordered by Wangoom and Horne Roads.
"Sometimes having strict guidelines can help you plan a community because some of those decisions can be taken away," she said.
"It's just like you've got certain colours on the palette and you only use them.
"You just make the best of it.
"I think it's really exciting."
Thearchitectural ceramic designer drew on her artistic background to design the new community using the sacred geometry of a Buddhist Mandala artwork for inspiration.
"I could just see a community the way a Mandala was clustered. I was inspired straight away to create something special," she said.
The housing development combines clusters of smaller allotments surrounded by larger ones while also incorporating room for a primary school, high school and sporting facilities which blends into the neighbouring forest of Tozer Reserve.
"The idea isn't to have real suburbia plonked down next to this beautiful forestry, it's designed to spill out into it so the Tozer Reserve and development becomes intertwined," she said.
It is the first development that Mrs Stevens has designed from scratch, and was done about 18 months ago with the help of a European architect.
"They have so much experience with sustainability and thinking outside the square with housing," she said.
"My vision was so out of the box, a new idea. I knew in my head what it was going to look like and that's probably my artist background coming through."
Mrs Stevens said her idea was to create housing clusters with their own central shared space within one big community rather than the traditional gridded subdivisions.
Those shared spaces could either be a playground, skate park or community garden.
"There are no straight roads but rather a meandering network of quiet tree-lined roads, walking paths, bike trails and Indigenous gardens," she said.
How big will the blocks be?
The clustered design is made up of four different-sized blocks to cater for home businesses, large families, couples and retirees.
"The blocks get smaller as you get closer to the community area in the middle," Mrs Stevens said.
Larger blocks, called production blocks will be between 1000 and 1500 square meters and will be located along Wangoom and Horne Roads.
Mrs Stevens said that would create a native tree-line buffer zone around the edge of the development and reflect the forest garden nature of the village.
It will cater for people who want bigger blocks to run a small business or hobby from their homes, backyards or sheds.
Freedom places will be 700 to 1000-square-metre blocks and are designed for families who need a larger home.
"Freedom places are also designed for people who want space for food production and other sustainable activities such as keeping chickens," Mrs Stevens said.
Eco places are between 500 and 700-square-metre blocks and are designed for low-maintenance, eco-friendly passive designed homes.
Wisdom places are made up of 400 to 500-square-metre blocks and are aimed at the older generation.
"The presence of wisdom places is to enhance cross-generational interaction by incorporating senior living alongside families, singles and couples to bring support and well-being to seniors," Mrs Stevens said.
"Wisdom places are ideal for those who may have family in other areas of the village.
"This is my really big passion.
"Rather than having singular demographics in one area - like a whole estate full of 400-600 square-metre blocks just gridded out - I think elderly people should live beside a young family and share their knowledge and their garden and come together in that community space.
"It doesn't exclude them from the hustle and bustle of a beautiful fulfilling life."
Parking allotments have been included throughout the development so people don't have to have their second park on their actual property, she said.
There will be 37 blocks allocated as the larger production plots, 151 as freedom plots, 135 as wisdom plots and 119 as eco plots.
When will they be ready for construction?
While the parcel of land will soon be opened up for expressions of interest, it could be years before construction can begin but that all depends on how long it takes for the structure plan to be given the green light.
"It's such an unknown thing, the bureaucracy and red tape that comes with property development," Mrs Stevens said.
"We'd do it tomorrow if we could. But we have to wait until the precinct structure plan has all gone through."
Once the structure plan is given the green light, the business Land In Warrnambool will lodge a planning application for the development of the "Mandala Village" for approval.
"My hope is that we can get that off the ground and get it all approved and have it as one of the first cabs off the rank when the land is ready," she said.
She has already shared her vision with the city council and the Victorian Planning Authority who is putting together the structure plan.
"They seemed really excited about it. I've had good feedback," she said.
Land shortage in the city
Warrnambool has been in the middle of a housing crisis for some time, but with more people fleeing the city for regional areas vacant land has become scarce too.
"I've had phone calls from builders from out of town who've heard Warrnambool is really on the burn asking 'Should we come?'," she said.
"People can't get a builder."
Mrs Stevens said Warrnambool was on par with Geelong and Melbourne in terms of selling out of land two to three stages ahead.
"We never thought we'd be in that position in Warrnambool," she said.
"It's just happening so fast. People have to plan ahead.
"Whereas before you could buy a titled block in Warrnambool, now you've got to be really on your game and thinking a couple of years ahead."
Pilot project for future developments
Mrs Stevens described the proposed new development as a "gamechanger" and said she had been told it could be used as a pilot project for other developers who might be thinking about building a sustainable community in a unique way.
"I'm not aware of anything that's been designed in that fashion before anywhere," she said.
"We've had it looked at by engineers to make sure it is feasible to build a housing estate in that way and there doesn't seem to be any issues with it.
"With the issue that the regions are faced with with the influx of people coming, this really needs to be given priority. We do certainly have a housing supply crisis."
It is often up to planning departments to determine the size of blocks in a development, and while there is a push to get more smaller allotments in Warrnambool, Mrs Stevens said she would be advocating for the bigger blocks.
"Everyone has different needs. While in theory it's great to get as many houses as you can per hectare, I don't believe that that should be a blanket policy," she said.
"That's why I tried to break it up to create that diversity."
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