The Future Cities Program realises that informed and visionary leadership is needed to decide how, when, and where new approaches and technologies can be used to make a real difference in improving not only the livability but also the sustainability and productivity of our cities. Strategic planning and sustainable urban development are being brought to the fore the world over and the Future Cities Program, in collaboration with the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, and the NSW Government, is supporting our leaders by using evidence-based solution modeling, first-hand examples and education, and collaborative approaches to shared problems to make meaningful differences to Australian cities.


The Future Cities Program was developed in 2012 to assist leaders of both regional and metropolitan cities in New South Wales in meeting the challenges of building liveable and sustainable communities.

In 2015, the Future Cities Program will focus on the revitalisation of precincts and the holistic sustainability and resiliency of neighbourhoods and communities. Additionally, the 2015 Future Cities Program will introduce a closer examination of local infrastructure financing and mechanisms that can be employed at the local government level to finance infrastructure investments and re-vitalisation.

The program is made possible due to partnerships between the New South Wales government, the United States Studies Centre, local and international partners, and local government leaders.

The primary goal is to promote sustainable urban development by supporting elected leaders, together with local government staff and community partners, with an evidence based approach to strategic urban planning; additionally, the Future Cities Program also aims to provide on-going knowledge sharing and capacity building between our participating Australian cities and American partners.

The 2015 program, which will once again be led by Professor Edward Blakely, will take New South Wales city leaders through an intensive strategic workshop in Sydney, followed by an international exchange to the United States.

To optimise the outcomes of the program, at least three participants from each city or town are required to attend including:

  • The Mayor or Deputy Mayor
  • The Director or Chief of Planning
  • A representative from the local business ‚Ä®chamber or an involved business leader from the community.

The workshop activities during the Mayors' Forum will focus on the real issues that cities face, and discussion will be centered on strategic solution formulation. TheCity Exchange to the United States will look at what American cities are doing to solve their urban design and local infrastrucutre issues, and also how they are financing the re-vitalisations. 

The overarching aim is to inspire and inform city leaders of innovative approaches, and move New South Wales cities towards sustainably and strategically developing their local communities in line with the future demands placed on their centres as places for people to live, work and play. 


Download Future Cities Program Mayors' Forum Workbook (PDF)



The program is comprised of four stages:

Program Stages
STAGE 1 Project Selection: The Future Cities Program sought to attract both regional and metropolitan councils who were challenged by how to resolve specific problems within the Local Government Area (LGA). The projects could range from specific urban design frameworks to precinct wide urban renewal strategies. The overall aim of the program was to show how urban design and spatial planning, and economic and social development strategies can be linked to quantitative analysis to provide a robust and evidence-based foundation for planning and decision making to create sustainable, productive and liveable precincts.

Participation in the program required the commitment of the Mayor/Deputy Mayor or other highly placed elected official to attend and lead the delegation, the General Manager/CEO or Director of Planning or equivalent, along with a member of the business community from the effected precinct or a member of a major business organisation such as the local Chamber of Commerce. In addition, each city needed to commit one member of the delegation, preferably the Mayor or elected official, to participate in Stage Three of the Program, the US-Australia City Exchange on Local Finance Mechanisms.

In 2015, Newcastle City Council also included representatives from Urban GrowthNSW in their delegation. Newcastle City Council and Urban GrowthNSW are jointly working on the current Newcastle City Centre revitalisation project, and having representatives from both the local government and state agency participating in the Future Cities Program served the benefit the local community as learnings were shared.

STAGE 2 Mayors’ Forum in Sydney: Stage Two of the Future Cities Program was a one-day intensive strategic Mayors’ Forum. This intensive forum brought all participating cities and their delegations of Mayors/Deputy Mayors, CEOs/Directors of Planning, and business/community representatives together for a day of educational seminars and charette-style workshops at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in April. The three-day Mayors’ Forum was led by Australian and international experts in urban design and sustainable development including American urban design and planning expert, Pratap Talwar.

STAGE 3 US-Australian International City Exchange: Stage Three of the Future Cities Program was the seven-day City Exchange to the United States. The US–Australia Exchange is an integral component of the Future Cities Program, with the learnings gained and contacts formed creating a lasting partnership between the participating cities and our American partners. The seven-day mission to the United States allowed all participating city leaders to examine examples of sustainability and livability transformations in American, cities and the innovative financing mechanisms which were used to bring the projects to fruition.
A wide range of proven innovative financing tools used by local governments, community, and business organisations in the United States were examined. These mechanisms are used for a range of projects, including infrastructure, light rail, urban renewal, recreation and open space, business district collaborations, sport and recreation, and affordable key-worker housing. The mission explored how these tools are used in the United States, and how they may be adapted to Australian contexts.

The United States is selected as the venue because of the similarities in city/town structures and similar municipal challenges, and with the United States Studies Centre as host, program participants can be offered unparalleled access to local and national US leaders.

STAGE 4 Project Review and Evaluation: Stage Four of the Future Cities Program involved a Graduation Luncheon held at Customs House in Sydney on 7 August 2015. This luncheon gave the participating cities the platform from which to share their insights regarding the program, and detail the next steps for their cities, including the implementation strategies for their urban renewal projects. The luncheon also served as the Report Launch for Funding Australia’s Future: City Exchange on Local Funding and Financing Mechanisms.


2015 Future Cities Program Open House Information Seminar: THURSDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2015  

Expression of Interest closes: FRIDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2015

Formal Submission closes: TUESDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2015

2015 Future Cities Program Mayors' Forum: WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL - THURSDAY 9 APRIL 2015

2015 Future Cities Program US-Australian International City Exchange: SUNDAY 21 JUNE - SATURDAY 27 JUNE 2015

2015 Future Cities Program Final Luncheon:  FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 2015


Professor Edward Blakely 

One of the world's leading scholars and practitioners of urban policy, Professor Edward Blakely has been Dean of the School of Urban Planning and Development at the University of Southern California and Dean of the Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, New School University in New York City. He currently serves as an Honorary Professor in Urban Policy at The United States Studies Centre at The University of Sydney. He is also the Founder and Chair of the United States Studies Centre urban policy initiative, the Future Cities Collaborative. In addition to Professor Blakely's background in academia, the Professor has an extensive record of public service that includes advising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, New York City after Super Storm Sandy, the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, state and federal governments in Australia and the United States, as well as governments in Korea, Japan, Sweden, Indonesia, New Zealand and Vietnam. Leading the Future Cities Program allows Professor Blakely to combine his passion for sustainable urban design with his expertise in teaching and fostering capacity building in all levels of government.  

Associate Professor Rod Simpson

Rod SimpsonWith over thirty years experience in architecture, master planning and urban design, Associate Professor Rod Simpson is an Associate Professor and Director of the Urban Design program in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning and the University of Sydney. Additionally, Rod is the principal of simpson+wilson, a small consultancy firm whose work ranges across architecture, urban design and strategic planning. In 2007 and 2008 he led the urban design and spatial planning for the Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan which focused on how the City of Sydney could significantly improve its environmental performance and contribute to improving the metropolitan area as a whole. He has worked for the federal, and state and territory governments on metropolitan and regional planning, as Manager of Urban Design for the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, and has won a number of urban design and planning competitions both national and international. For twenty years he has been an active advocate of ecologically sustainable design principles. He was instrumental in the formulation of BASIX, the NSW Building Sustainability Index and more recently worked with Kinesis on the development of a precinct wide sustainability assessment tool for Landcom: PRECINX which has received both state and national planning awards. He also has an interest in cultural planning and is a board member of the Historic Houses Trust, is a director of Emergency Architects Australia and is a member of the Landcom (UrbanGrowth NSW) project review panel. 

Bruce Taper

With over 20 years experience in sustainability and planning, Bruce Taper is the Director of Kinesis. Through his work, Bruce brings an innovative and unconventional approach to overcoming the challenges of strategic urban design. Former Director of Sustainability and Metropolitan Planning for the NSW Department of Planning, Bruce’s expertise lies in his capacity to utilise emerging technologies to deliver smart, equitable and enabling solutions. Since founding Kinesis in 2007 Bruce has stewarded the delivery of game-changing work for clients, including the groundbreaking PRECINX rating tool for Landcom (UrbanGrowth NSW), and the Decentralised Energy Master Plan for the City of Sydney.

David Holden 

With 10 years experience working across Australian and American cities in both the public and private sectors, David focuses on transforming the way city planning can be integrated with development and urban sustainability. David is currently an Associate Director of Kinesis, which allows him to specialise in the analysis of data for planning policy, land use, transport, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and stormwater to create sustainable urban forms that both mitigate, and are adaptable to, the climate problem.



Pratap Talwar

Director, MIT Infrastructure Architecture Lab
Principal, Thompson Design Studio
Boston, United States of America

Pratap Talwar is an architect, planner and urban designer whose projects span a broad range of development contexts worldwide. His award-winning projects have provided creative solutions for public and private investments at scales ranging from sustainable regional plans to metropolitan revitalisation initiatives to community plans, and green infrastructure-oriented urban redevelopment strategies.

Managing Principal of Thompson Design Group, Pratap’s work has received recognition from the AIA, APA, ULI, ASLA, and the International Waterfront Center. He is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fellow of the Institute of Urban Design, and has served as faculty for the Mayors Institute for City Design sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. As a director of the MIT/Infrastructure Architecture Lab, he is researching how incremental mobility, land use, and risk mitigation concerns impact the funding and design of multipurpose urban infrastructure.



The City of Newcastle

NewcastleIn 2030, Newcastle will be a smart, liveable and sustainable city. This is the vision in the Newcastle 2030 Community Strategic Plan (2013). The document comprises seven strategic directions for Newcastle:

  1. A connected city
  2. Protected and enhanced environment
  3. Vibrant and activated public places
  4. Caring and inclusive community
  5. Distinctive and liveable built environments
  6. Smart and innovative city
  7. Open and collaborative leadership.

Specifically, Newcastle city centre will foster business vitality, community wellbeing and promote a safe and diverse nightlife. The city centre will be continuously transformed away from being a conventional commercial centre towards a precinct integrating residential and commercial interests, safely and diversely.

The area nominated for this program is within the Civic Precinct as defined in the Hunter Street Revitalisation Final Strategic Framework 2010. The program area runs alongside the heavy rail corridor and Hunter Street between Worth Place and Brown Street. This area is the civic and cultural heart of the city and is a key link between all the CBD precincts.

The opportunity to study this area has arisen through the State Government’s decision to truncate the heavy rail line at Wickham and replace with a light rail system. The current preferred “hybrid” alignment runs within the corridor in the west, and then runs along Hunter Street in the east of the city.

The goal is to balance land use, activation, public domain and access outcomes along the corridor and to ensure a city designed for people that supports a sense of place and Newcastle heritage. This includes the regeneration of Hunter Street as our main street and creation of a setting to foster appropriate new investment and development, which supports the vision.

The precinct has many strengths which can attract private investment including a waterfront setting (river and coast), revised development controls and new law and education facilities. The city centre will be the primary location for commercial office, entertainment, civic and community uses.
The consolidation of activity into nodes through the city centre will create an intensity of activity and viability that will attract new uses and businesses and hence improve our community access to recreation, education and employment activities.

A light rail system is planned for Newcastle. There is an opportunity for this to be part of an integrated transport and accessibility network, which supports pedestrian, cyclist and other vehicle movements.

Councillor Nuatali Nelems, Lord Mayor of Newcastle, talks about her vision for the City of Newcastle at the 2015 Future Cities Program Graduation Luncheon 

The City of Penrith

As an officially recognised Regional City Centre, Penrith is already a vital hub for regional business, health, education and employment. But it is also a place where there is great potential yet to be tapped — a place of limitless opportunities. It is the city centre that is the heart of Penrith’s economy and therefore its future destiny.

Penrith City Council has just completed an extensive economic analysis of the city centre. The project is called the Penrith Progression. The work has defined those economic sectors of the future which offer the greatest opportunity to create jobs and build a more sustainable city. In addition to the identified economic sectors, it was acknowledged that housing impacts positively on the economy.

More people living in the city centre would bring new services, new jobs and a vibrant lifestyle. Places with high amenity and fluid movement create activity and investment. Millenials, also known as Gen Y, like to be close to everything, including transport, work, coffee shops and bars. Older residents also like being close to health services, lifestyle options and family.

The Penrith City Centre is well endowed with a number of large scale redevelopment sites with inner city living potential. Left alone, they will over time develop in a somewhat disaggregated way. The opportunity exists for these to instead be linked with walkable streets, green grids of movement and green infrastructure. This would connect people and places, improve the public domain and enhance the city’s economy.
The housing typology most typical for all outer metropolitan growth areas, including Penrith, is detached homes in a suburban setting. The city centres in these places often lack the infrastructure and the inner city housing typology to cater for family based households. There is opportunity to research this, defining strategies and actions that will create the conditions that are supportive of inner city living in an outer metropolitan setting.

Mr Craig Butler, Assistant General Manager, talks of Penrith City Council's journey through the Future Cities Program at the Graduation Luncheon. 



The program has resulted in specific outcomes for each participating city, which has led to increases in the diversity of housing stock, economic development, and revitalisation of key employment and commercial districts. Specifically, precinct development and areas of focus for each Local Government Area included:

  1. City Of Penrith - Penrith CBD: Creating a sustainable and diverse urban form and housing typology with walkable streets that connect people and places, improve the public domain, enhance the city’s economy and does so in a sustainable manner.
  2. City of Newcastle - Newcastle CBD, Hunter St: To balance land use, activation, public domain and access outcomes along the truncated heavy rail corridor, and to ensure a city designed for people that supports a sense of place and Newcastle heritage. This includes the regeneration of Hunter Street and creation of a setting to foster appropriate new investment and development.

Collectively, the major findings of the Future Cities Program for 2015, and corresponding US-Australian City Exchange on Local Finance Mechanisms, centre on developing a policy environment which supports innovative funding and finance mechanisms. These findings and recommendations include:

  1. Creating positive and strong community support via formal and informal voter referenda
  2. Developing appropriate institutional and governance structures at state wide and regional level to oversee major infrastructure and development.
  3. Encouraging Urban renewal through stable funding sources, commercially attractive incentives, and supportive legislative programs at all tiers of government.
  4. Developing long term institutional and funding support for major transport infrastructure.
  5. Adopting legislation which empowers local government to develop and adopt commercial revitalisation strategies
  6. Encouraging local government to foster economic development by examining ways to leverage existing assets and new anchors, such as universities, to stimulate economic development within communities.

These key observations and findings and illustrative case studies from the US–Australian City Exchange and will form the basis for further policy research in 2015/2016.

Watch the videos from the 2015 Future Cities Program Graduation Luncheon HERE. 





Throughout the application process, interested councils are encouraged to contact the Future Cities Program team should they require further information, or wish to discuss their submission. 


T: +61 2 9036 7100

E: [email protected]


The Future Cities Program 2015 was supported by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.