Apartment Towers in Coastal Towns: The Case For and Against
Apartment Towers in Coastal Towns: The Case For and Against
Australia has seen a rash of apartment construction in recent years. The demand for more living space has led to apartment towers dominating the major cities. But now, apartment towers have found their way to coastal towns. Here are the positives and negatives of this new development.
The rate of apartment tower construction in Australia is on the rise. An ever-growing population creates more demand for living space. So too does the affordability crisis in several of the country’s major cities. More apartment towers means more places to live. Ideally, this creates enough supply to satisfy demand, thus bringing prices down.
That’s not an issue when confined to the major cities. In fact, many people see apartment towers as attractive additions to a city’s skyline.
But what about apartment towers in coastal towns?
This isn’t a hypothetical question. It’s something that’s happening right now.
The picturesque town of Nelson Bay has long been a tourist attraction. Located just to the north of Newcastle, the town offers gorgeous beaches and a national park. Simply put, it’s a natural oasis that’s renowned for its beauty.
But it’s also now the centre of a planning rules battle. The Port Stephens Council is currently considering a rule change. This would allow for the construction of taller apartment towers. If the planning rules do get changed, the town may see 10-storey apartment towers built in the town centre. On the southern fringes, these towers may grow to 12 storeys.
Unsurprisingly, the upcoming decision has led to a lot of debate in the town. Some argue that the construction of these towers would ruin the natural allure of the location. A bunch of 10-storey buildings hardly mesh well with the natural scenery that surrounds them.
Others, including the town’s mayor, argue that the apartment towers would stimulate a struggling economy. The units in the towers could get turned into holiday rentals. Ideally, this would attract more investment activity, as well as providing more space for tourists.
One thing’s for certain. Almost everybody in the town has an opinion.
If nothing else, this story highlights an issue that many in the building industry underestimate. The opinions of the local population matter as they relate to your project. In the rush to design and build new structures, you may forget about the people that they affect. In areas of natural beauty, such as the coastlands, these decisions carry even more weight.
This has led to the idea for this article. We’re going to look at the cases both for and against the building of apartment towers in coastal towns.
The Case for Apartment Towers in Coastal Towns
Firstly, let’s look at the case for the construction of apartment towers in coastal towns.
Many of these benefits have a financial focus. But there are some that may contribute to the overall health of a coastal town as well.
Pro #1 – Overall Economic Stimulation
In the above story, Nelson Bay’s mayor makes mention of the economic situation in the town. Apparently, the town hasn’t done as well financially as it has in previous years. Perhaps it’s struggling to attract tourists. Or, maybe there’s a lack of investment into local infrastructure. Whatever the case may be, the town seems to struggle financially.
There’s an argument that the apartment towers that may get built in the town will provide a much-needed economic boost. This could happen in a number of ways.
If taken over by a holiday provider, the towers could find a use as accommodation for tourists. More tourists means more demand for the services that the residents of the town provide.
However, that’s not much help if the town already struggles to attract tourists. But a faltering tourist market doesn’t make the town an unattractive place to live in. It’s possible that the apartment towers could increase the town’s population. More people living in the town creates more demand. It also has the potential to boost the number of business operating in the town. After all, a greater number of people means that operating a business becomes more viable.
Of course, none of this takes into account the money that the property developers would invest to build the towers in the first place.
This all means that there’s a strong financial argument for apartment towers in coastal towns.
Pro #2 – Property Market Stimulation
Referring back to our story, Nelson Bay’s mayor also points out that property prices in the town are stagnant. Where most of Australia has seen prices rocket up, Nelson Bay has stood at a standstill.
That may not be an unfamiliar story for many coastal towns. A lack of investment and infrastructure means that they fall behind the times. New buyers may not consider such towns as being suitable for their needs. Moreover, investors don’t want to buy in an area that doesn’t generate returns.
But the construction of apartment towers could change all of that. Suddenly, the town will show signs of life that may get investors interested. Infrastructure may follow, which could turn a stagnant town into a growing one.
Pro #3 – Protecting Essential Land
If there’s one thing that apartment towers do well, it’s using as little land as possible to create a lot of living space.
That’s actually a key argument when it comes to building apartment towers in coastal towns. Using less space means that you don’t have to build on natural habitats. Instead, you can fit more people into a small amount of land.
This creates two benefits. The most important relates to the conservation of natural land. In the case of Nelson Bay, it’s possible that building apartment towers will protect the local koala population. Allowing this type of development may ward off desires for more damaging developments in other areas.
Similar benefits may exists in other coastal areas.
Using less land also means more walkability. It leaves more for the residents and visitors to explore. That’s a major selling point when taking a vacation in a coastal town. It’s possible that building these towers will concentrate property development in a small area. This means that the rest of the natural landscape gets left untouched.
Pro #4 – Less Congestion
Building on the previous point, using less land for building also leads to less congestion. Again, that’s key to preserving the attractive qualities of coastal towns. More congestion means more traffic and road noise. All of this takes away from the natural scenery that many people pay to experience.
But those living in apartment towers experience less congestion in other ways. Many high-rise buildings feature balconies. Simply being so high up means that the residents escape the hustle and bustle of what’s going on below. Any coastal town resident will tell you about how important that is during the busiest seasons of the year.
Moreover, not dealing with congestion on the ground offers another fringe benefit. The views from the top floors of these towers have the potential to be truly breathtaking. Of course, there are some caveats to this pro. Tightly-packed apartment towers result in limited views, rather than better ones. Still, wise planning could mean that the lack of congestion becomes a key feature of such towers.
The Case Against Apartment Towers in Coastal Towns
All of this paints a rosy picture. But there’s a darker side to coastal high-rise construction that you have to consider.
Many of Nelson Bay’s residents have pointed towards the negative aspects of apartment towers. Here are a few cons to keep in mind.
Con #1 – Possible Destruction of Natural Habitats
The preservation of natural habitats should be a pro for the construction of high-rise buildings. But you can’t guarantee that such developments will have such protective effects. After all, a town that allows one development may allow for others. It’s possible that the first high-rise building will pave the way for future buildings. As the population grows, the town needs more infrastructure. That might include new roads and business, all of which need space of their own.
While apartment towers save space, they can also grow a town’s population. The bigger the population gets, the more the people living in the town will need. The towers themselves may not contribute to the destruction of natural habitats. But it’s possible that the things that come along with them will.
Con #2 – Changing the Town’s Character
Those at the top of an apartment tower may benefit from a gorgeous view. But those on the ground will have to make do with a bunch of buildings looming over them.
One of the main reasons why people visit coastal towns is that they feel so different to the cities. They’re generally more relaxed and less populated, assuming that you don’t visit during peak tourist seasons.
The addition of several high-rise buildings transforms the landscape of the town. The coast and natural scenery are no longer the focuses of attention. Instead, it’s the huge buildings jutting up above everything else that will catch the eye.
Some argue that this has a hugely transformative effect on the town. Suddenly, it loses the natural allure that drew people to it in the first place. It becomes just another town that just happens to be near the coast.
Con #3 – They Encourage Overpopulation
Nelson Bay’s mayor points to attracting more people to the town as a plus point. But many who live in coastal towns may argue against that. In fact, more people means more hustle and bustle on the ground.
Such towns already deal with business during the tourist season. Many of those who live in the towns do so because of the peace and quiet that comes with the off-season.
That’s shattered when high-rise buildings become the norm. The town’s population grows, which means the town needs more service. What was once a quiet and peaceful area becomes more densely populated.
Again, the natural allure that draws many to such towns disappears under. What’s left is a town that’s focused more on economic benefits, rather than the living conditions that attracted people in the first place.
Con #4 – Possible Dilapidation
All of this assumes that such developments will turn out to be successful. If the apartment towers create the economic benefits they’re supposed to, you have a balanced argument.
But what happens if the towers don’t stimulate the economy. The construction of a new high-rise may not attract any new holidaymakers. It may also fail to make the town more appealing to investors and owner-occupiers.
If that happens, you’re left with a building that nobody wants to live in. And if the town can’t find a use for the building, it falls into disrepair. This makes the tower even more of an eyesore. Moreover, the town's residents may then have to deal with demolition work if they want to repurpose the land.
Many residents want to see assurances that such construction work will reap actual benefits. The alternative would cause even more damage.
As you can see, the decision to build apartment towers in coastal towns isn’t an easy one.
On one hand, there are clear financial benefits. More living space means a potentially higher population. This feeds into a growing economy, which benefits everybody in the town. It’s also possible that such buildings could help to preserve natural land.
The problem is that none of these benefits come with a guarantee. The construction of an apartment tower doesn’t automatically generate interest from buyers. It’s possible that buyers may see other issues that keep them away from the town.
Plus, there’s the issue of the loss of character that the town might undergo. Apartment towers completely change the landscape. That’s not something that residents will always want to see happen.
There’s no definitive right or wrong answer. The viewpoint that you receive depends on who you talk to.
What this does serve as is a warning to prospective property developers. The Nelson Bay story shows that you can’t assume a development will go ahead unopposed. That’s particularly the case when it comes to making such drastic changes to a coastal town.
Always consider the opinions of the local population before embarking on a project. The reactions of the locals will often play a role in dictating the project’s success.
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Posted on 19 Sep 2019