BSD City: a response to Jakarta’s rapid urbanisation

An overview of BSD City. Image: Sinar Mas Land.

Carissa Widjojo works on strategic planning and corporate strategy at Sinar Mas Land, the Indonesian property developer behind the Bumi Serpong Damia garden city.

Indonesia is projected to have 32m people seeking housing in its urban areas by 2030. In parallel, the nation’s demographic profile is in transition, with a growing working-age population, but also a larger, aging group with specific needs and spending power. As the nation’s capital and one of the most rapidly growing cities in the world, Jakarta’s development will be the focal point of Indonesia’s rapid urbanisation.

Consequently, Indonesia urgently needs innovative, creative and sustainable property solutions. We need to prioritise the management of natural resources and preserve equitable standards both for established communities and the ones we create.

The self-contained satellite city of Bumi Serpong Damai (BSD), located in the south west of Jakarta, is the realization of over 20 years of meticulous planning. The city’s development is already in its second phase and will continue up until 2020, with a third and final phase set to be completed by 2035. This cityscape of 6,000 hectares is setting a new standard for modern living and is the hallmark of planned integrated townships in Indonesia.

BSD City’s development plan incorporates five toll roads, two of which are already in place, with feeder links to busways for both local and capital city access. In addition, a double track rail connection has been implemented for regional transport. A dedicated water treatment plant and reliable power infrastructure ensure that the utility requirements of its inhabitants are met. In addition, the city’s purpose-built nursery ensures that the landscape flourishes in tandem with rapid urban development. Furthermore, there are over 65 educational establishments and three hospitals, a variety of markets, entertainment centres, sports and leisure facilities.

BSD City focuses on four key areas: climate, including pedestrian comfort; water; waste; and energy management. Our mission is to preserve the natural beauty of the Cisadane river basin, ensure that BSD is an environmentally conscious city of the future for the benefit of all, embrace the needs of adjacent traditional village communities and new residents, and seek an alternative to city congestion and pollution.

Tackling the Biggest Challenges of our Time

Topics of energy, water, food security and climate change are increasingly important in today’s rapidly urbanising world. Some estimates suggest that Indonesia could cut as much as 15 per cent of its energy demands by 2030 through energy efficient buildings. BSD City itself contains over 400 hectares of green space and parks, contributing to effective water retention and air quality.

The provision of adequate water is often recognised as the next global challenge. While Jakarta relies primarily on the use of wells, BSD City has the potential to attain almost complete water independence, and net zero potable water waste, via the use of water management systems and extensive greening. Filtering and treating wastewater for reuse in sanitation, road cleaning and irrigation has been highly effective.

The design for an office park in BSD City. Image: Sinar Mas Land.

The built environment is a massive consumer of energy. Among other countries in Asia, Indonesia’s reliance on energy from low-cost coal contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Over the lifespan of a building, considerable energy can be wasted through inefficient design. On top of this, there is the cost of fuel for the rising numbers of private vehicles on traffic-congested roads.

We address these challenges through the provision of reliable public transport, pedestrian sidewalks and bicycle lanes that offer cost-effective alternatives to the private vehicle. Energy efficient buildings, oriented to avoid east and west elevations with reflective roof surfaces, help minimise solar impact and reduce the urban heat island effect. Such measures also channel local wind effectively for pedestrian comfort during the day, along with shade from tree-lined streets.

Creativity in design can generate natural ventilation in multi-storey buildings. Meanwhile the use of renewable energy – in particular solar – and the use of energy efficient building materials ensure further savings.

Championing Sustainable Master Planning

In developing Asian cities of the future, there is an emerging trend to reduce the dominance of multi-lane streets and private vehicles. Asian cities are also aiming to avoid monolithic land use and limit suburban sprawl.

Central to the development of each phase of BSD City is the establishment of comprehensive supporting facilities for inhabitants. These facilities are selected with lifestyle synergy in mind. They include global university campuses, hospital districts, enterprise zones, residential villages, retail and entertainment recreational areas. All of these facilities are destinations in themselves, and are the antithesis of repetitive single use land developments of the past.

Our planning studies include concepts such as “walkability” – creating easy access on foot or bicycle for short journeys, to local nodes comprising schools, local retail and services, which are connected to other hubs via public transport.

Over the next decade we expect to build 150,000 new homes in BSD City alone, as the garden city grows to over one million residents. At this level of responsibility, it is essential that we remain open, accessible and transparent.

With the rapidly growing urban population in Greater Jakarta, our city needs to be ready to accommodate this. The decisions we make today regarding urban services, infrastructure and environment sustainability will determine our future. Now is the time for us to let go of our short-term tunnel vision, and instead to adopt a future-focused mindset, so that our children and businesses can grow and prosper seamlessly in a healthy living environment.

Carissa Widjojo works in strategic planning and corporate strategy at Sinar Mas Land, an Indonesian real estate consultancy which is a partner on the New Cities Summit, to be held in Jakarta on 9-11 June.

This post was originally published on the New Cities Foundation's blog.

 
 
 
 

Owning public space is expensive. So why do developers want to do it?

Granary Yard, London. Image: Getty.

A great deal has been written about privately owned public space, or POPS. A Guardian investigation earlier this year revealed the proliferation of “pseudo-public spaces”. Tales of people being watched, removed from or told off in POPS have spread online. Activists have taken to monitoring POPS, and politicians on both sides of the pond are calling for reforms in how they are run.

Local authorities’ motives for selling off public spaces are normally simple: getting companies to buy and maintain public space saves precious public pounds. Less straightforward and often overlooked in this debate is why – given the maintenance costs, public safety concerns and increasingly unflattering media attention – developers would actually want to own public space in the first place.

To answer that question it’s important to note that POPS can’t be viewed as isolated places, like parks or other public spaces might be. For the companies that own them, public spaces are bound up in the business that takes place inside their private buildings; POPS are tools that allow them, in one way or another, to boost profits.

Trade-offs

In some cities, such as Hong Kong and New York, ownership of public space is a trade-off for the right to bend the rules in planning and zoning. In 1961 New York introduced a policy that came to be known as ‘incentive zoning’. Developers who took on the provision of some public space could build wider, taller buildings, ignoring restrictions that had previously required staggered vertical growth to let sunlight and air into streets.

Since then, the city has allowed developers to build 20m square feet of private space in exchange for 80 acres of POPS, or 525 individual spaces, according to watchdog Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS).

Several of those spaces lie in Trump Tower. Before the King of the Deal began construction on his new headquarters in 1979, he secured a pretty good deal with the city: Trump Tower would provide two atriums, two gardens, some restrooms and some benches for public use; in exchange 20 floors could be added to the top of the skyscraper. That’s quite a lot of condos.

Shockingly, the current president has not always kept up his end of the bargain and has been fined multiple times for dissuading members of the public from using POPS by doing things like placing flower pots on top of benches – violating a 1975 rule which said that companies had to provide amenities that actually make public spaces useable. The incident might suggest the failure of the ‘honour system’ under which POPS operate day-to-day. Once developers have secured their extra square footage, they might be tempted to undermine, subtly, the ‘public’ nature of their public spaces.

But what about where there aren’t necessarily planning benefits to providing public space? Why would companies go to the trouble of managing spaces that the council would otherwise take care of?


Attracting the ‘right sort’

Granary Square, part of the £5bn redevelopment of London’s Kings Cross, has been open since 2012. It is one of Europe’s largest privately-owned public spaces and has become a focal point for concerns over corporate control of public space. Yet developers of the neighbouring Coal Drop Yards site, due to open in October 2018, are also making their “dynamic new public space” a key point in marketing.

Cushman Wakefield, the real estate company in charge of Coal Drops Yard, says that the vision of the developers, Argent, has been to “retain the historical architecture to create a dramatic environment that will attract visitors to the 100,000 square feet of boutiques”. The key word here is “attract”. By designing and managing POPS, developers can attract the consumers who are essential to the success of their sites and who might be put off by a grubby council-managed square – or by a sterile shopping mall door.

A 2011 London Assembly Report found that the expansion of Canary Wharf in the 1990s was a turning point for developers who now “assume that they themselves will take ownership of an open space, with absolute control, in order to protect the value of the development as a whole”. In many ways this is a win-win situation; who doesn’t appreciate a nice water feature or shrub or whatever else big developer money can buy?

The caveat is, as academic Tridib Banerjee pointed out back in 2001: “The public is welcome as long as they are patrons of shops and restaurants, office workers, or clients of businesses located on the premises. But access to and use of the space is only a privilege and not a right” – hence the stories of security guards removing protesters or homeless people who threaten the aspirational appeal of places like Granary Square.

In the US, developers have taken this kind of space-curation even further, using public spaces as part of their formula for attracting the right kind of worker, as well as consumer, for nearby businesses. In Cincinnati, developer 3CDC transformed the notoriously crime-ridden Over-The-Rhine (OTR) neighbourhood into a young professional paradise. Pouring $47m into an initial make-over in 2010, 3CDC beautified parks and public space as well as private buildings.

To do so, the firm received $50 million  in funding from corporations like Procter and Gamble, whose Cincinnati headquarters sits to the South-West of OTR. This kind of hyper-gentrification has profoundly change the demographics of the neighbourhood – to the anger of many long-term residents – attracting, essentially, the kind of people who work at Procter and Gamble.

Elsewhere, in cities like Alpharetta, Georgia, 3CDC have taken their public space management even further, running events and entertainment designed to attract productive young people to otherwise dull neighbourhoods.

Data pools

The proposed partnership between the city of Toronto and Sidewalk Labs (owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet) has highlighted another motive for companies to own public space: the most modern of all resources, data.

Data collection is at the heart of the ‘smart city’ utopia: the idea that by turning public spaces and the people into them into a vast data pool, tech companies can find ways to improve transport, the environment and urban quality of life. If approved next year, Sidewalk would take over the mostly derelict east waterfront area, developing public and private space filled with sensors.

 Of course, this isn’t altruism. The Globe and Mail describe Sidewalk’s desired role as “the private garbage collectors of data”. It’s an apt phrase that reflects the merging of public service and private opportunity in Toronto’s future public space.

The data that Sidewalk could collect in Toronto would be used by Google in its commercial projects. Indeed, they’ve already done so in New York’s LinkNYC and London’s LinkUK. Kiosks installed around the cities provide the public with wifi and charging points, whilst monitoring traffic and pedestrians and generating data to feed into Google Maps.

The subway station at Hudson Yards, New York City. Image: Getty.

This is all pretty anodyne stuff. Data on how we move around public spaces is probably a small price to pay for more efficient transport information, and of course Sidewalk don’t own the areas around their Link Kiosks. But elsewhere companies’ plans to collect data in their POPS have sparked controversy. In New York’s Hudson Yards development – which Sidewalk also has a stake in – ambiguity over how visitors and residents can opt out of sharing their data when in its public square, have raised concerns over privacy.

In Toronto, Sidewalk have already offered to share their data with the city. However, Martin Kenney, researcher at the University of California at Davis and co-author of 2016’s ‘The Rise of the Platform Economy’, has warned that the potential value of a tech company collecting a community’s data should not be underestimated. “What’s really important is the deals Toronto cuts with Sidewalk may set terms and conditions for the rest of the world," he said after the announcement in October.

The project could crystallise all three motives behind the ownership of POPS. Alongside data collection, Sidewalk will likely have some leeway over planning regulations and will certainly tailor its public spaces to its ideal workers and consumers – Google have already announced that it would move its Canadian headquarters, from their current location in Downton Toronto, into the first pilot phase of the development.

Even if the Sidewalks Lab project never happens, the motives behind companies’ ownership of POPS tell us that cities’ public realms are of increasing interest to private hands.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.