WILLIAM LIGHT'S 1837 PLAN FOR THE ADELAIDE CITY LAYOUT AND PARKLANDS was placed on the National Heritage List in 2008. This confirmed the greatness of Light’s vision for Australia’s first planned city in the world's first public parklands. But Adelaide as a society has taken a long time to realise how to make the most of that inherited greatness.
The parklands were abused early on as quarries, rubbish dumps and fenced grazing paddocks. The Torrens river – not really a river, but originally a string of waterholes fed by creeks – was also neglected. Only when the Torrens was dammed into a lake in 1881 did Adelaide appreciate Light’s vision. The Torrens project also inspired a start on beautifying the parklands.
Light’s plan also isolated the city square and its suburb North Adelaide from the rest of the metropolitan area. This left the city council with a small population and limited resources for revenue.
Struggling at times to meet its obligations to ratepayers, the city council over the years has been pitted against the state government over which one of them is responsible for presenting the city square with amenities expected of a state capital. Light didn't anticipate a city council, let alone a long fractious rivalry between the council and the state government over who was in charge of shaping the city.
Light's wide main streets (King William is the widest of any Australian capital) did unwittingly allow for the motor car. But an unintended consequence was the damage to elegant streetscapes and heritage treasures (e.g., the Royalty Theatre) demolished to build carparks.
Adelaide in the 21st Century is only starting to fulfil Light’s vision. The state government and city council started to work closely on a capital city program for more population and vibrancy. Light wanted a walking city with a green focus. It is regaining that part of the vision with renewed care for its built heritage.
ABORIGINALS' PILTAWODLI HOME TAKEN OVER BY EUROPEAN SETTLERS IN 1836
First European colonists on the HMS Buffalo, who eventually came to live in the vicinity of the future Adelaide square mile, settled in what became the west parklands under William Light's plan. At first, they lived in tents or houses of reeds (from the wetlands at Lockleys) and later in prefabricated wooden huts from Britain in an “Immigrants Square” near the present intersection of Currie Street and West Terrace. Limestone and clay for bricks from the Torrens banks soon replaced mud and timber for bigger buildings. Surviving brick buildings from the late 1830s and early1840s include the Ebenezer Chapel in Brougham Court, the Sheridan Theatre in MacKinnon Parade and Buffalo Cottage in Finniss Street. The Adelaide Gaol (1841) is also an important example. Nearby was the Colonial (or Iron) Store at the foot of Montefiore Hill nearly 400 metres to the northwest of the Native Location. Only about 120 metres to the southeast was the military camp of the sappers (royal engineers) quarters, between Memorial Drive and the Torrens Weir. (Sappers built and repaired fortifications.) After 1851, when barracks for the mounted police and for military purposes were built off North Terrace and east of Government House, the colonial store and sappers quarters moved to these barracks. The protector of Aboriginals and the Native School also moved to this location. Under the 1858 Building Act, Adelaide City Council banned timber construction. Bluestone quarried from Glen Osmond became a popular building material. It became a distinctive feature of the Adelaide built environment.
Surveyor general William Light’s plan for Adelaide had a long-lasting effect on its identity as a capital city when he gave it a suburb called North Adelaide. Light’s decision to create a south (city square mile) and north Adelaide – both enclosed by parklands – followed from him placing his plan within the Torrens creeks valley. The valley provided a key requirement, aside from fresh water, for the site: stones for constructing the city. Light’s plan divided the city square mile into 700 well-ordered town acres but he had to resort to town acres at odd angles to fit North Adelaide around the river valley. The River Torrens (not really a river but a series of water holes), was easy to cross in dry weather but changed dramatically during a flood. Crossing the river before 1856, when the first flood proof bridge was built in the King William Street extension, was dangerous. The lack of access to the south encouraged a closer relationship between North Adelaide and Walkerville residents who, in 1855, discussed separating from south Adelaide. Adelaide’s local government autonomy, insulated from the rest of the metropolitan area, has long been debated. But the role of the city council in charge of the state capital’s symbolic centre has been complicated by the role of – and often control of the council by –residents of the North Adelaide suburbs. The state government and city council have come closest in the 21st Century to easing long-standing acrimony and resolving the council’s dual role of local government for the state capital and for city/North Adelaide residents.
North Adelaide was laid out by William Light in 1837 as a satellite of the Adelaide city square mile with 341 acre blocks surrounded by parklands. It soon became a dormitory suburb for the social elite wealthy business and professional men who built large mansions, mostly in upper North Adelaide. Lower North Adelaide, 96 acres including Melbourne Street, Stanley Street and MacKinnon Parade, sometimes called Irishtown, tended to be inhabited by labouring classes, artisans and tradesmen in small cottages. Light also squeezed in more town acres along the North Adelaide ridge top fronting Montefiore Hill, the eastern end of Strangways Terrace and Barnard Street, and more town acres to the west of Hill Street. Brougham Place, North Adelaide, overlooking the city, gained a row of mansions in the early 20th Century for wealthy identities such as brewer William Henry Beaglehole, wine and spirit merchant George Milne, Goolgardie Gold mining investor Edwin Dalton, hotelier Arthur Waterhouse and merchant Charles Henry Goode. The homes of wealthier German settlers add to the large stock of the North Adelaide heritage buildings that extends to hotels and churches such as Brougham Place Uniting. An alluvial clay bed south of Melbourne Street and east of Jerningham Street provided bricks for several homes such as the former Keith Sheridan Theatre in Mackinnon Parade, the former Ebenezer Chapel off Brougham Court and Buffalo Cottage in Finniss Street. Development of North Adelaide was held up until 1856 when the first flood-proof link across the River Torrens to the city centre was built.
ADELAIDE CITY COUNCIL, AUSTRALIA'S FIRST LOCAL GOVERNMENT, STRUGGLES FROM START IN 1840
South Australian governor Henry Young appointed Australia’s first city corporation in 1840 when Adelaide’s population had exceeded 2,000 and qualified as a municipality under the British system. The Adelaide council’s 19 members chose four to be aldermen and a mayor (James Hurtle Fisher). The colonial government handed over the running of a two-storey stone slaughterhouse in the west parklands to the new city corporation. But, otherwise, the council struggled for revenue.
The Adelaide City Corporation was revived in 1852, after being defunct from 1843, when the colony’s economy has improved. It was better able to manage rates, roads (the “real work of macadamising the streets in a systematic manner” began in 1856) and rubbish. It continued using the parklands to raise revenue through licence fees for grazing animals. By the 1880s, there were almost 80 miles of fencing for about 30 areas of the parklands used for grazing animals.
ADELAIDE MASKS ITS POLLUTION AND SLUMS WITH AN ELEGANT FACADE
August Pelzer, city gardener from 1899, dramatically tamed many parts of the parklands with more than a dozen formal parks such as Cresswell, Pennington, Lundie and Osmond Gardens as well as getting rid of miles of fencing. The increased use of exotic species in grand open spaces, with pathways and rustic trimmings, added to picturesque European vistas in an alien landscape. The gardens, including the North Terrace boulevard, boosted Adelaide's reputation for civic pride.
ADELAIDE CITY COUNCIL FACES 20th CENTURY POPULATION LOSS; RELIES ON REVENUE FROM RUBBISH
Adelaide City Council's first attempt to run a market was in 1855, with 26 stalls on the corporation’s acre in King William Street. This failed, opening the way for Richard Vaughan to set up a market that became the fruit and produce exchange on East Terrace. From 1861, Vaughan's venture thrived (and continued until 1988) and was soon overflowing. This overflow meant the need for the City Market, opened in 1869 on three town acres in Grote Street bought in 1867 by the city council. The market operated for six months before any sheds were built. The Grote Street brick façade (1900) and seven two-storey shops in Gouger Street (1906) were the council’s first big investments. A major addition was an arcade of shops in 1915 between Grote and Gouger streets, extending from the eastern market roadway to Moore’s department store fronting Victoria Square. When the fish market lease expired in 1922, it was replaced by an extra north-south arcade. But, from the 1930s Depression, no major works were done until a 1960s $400,000 revamp saw the eastern Grote Street façade demolished. During the 1960s redevelopment, the city council changed the name City Market to the Central Market.
Lucia Bugeja introduced Adelaide to pizza in 1957. Lucia’s Pizza and Spaghetti Bar continues into the 21st Century – one example of the tradition added by migrants, mostly Italian and Greek, who took over businesses – often giving up labouring jobs – in the Central Market from the late 1950s/60s. Future lord mayor Steve Condous, then 21, and brother Stanley in 1956 bought German cake shop from Gehlerts in the market’s City Arcade (demolished to make way for the Market Arcade in the 1960s). Con’s Fine Foods was opened by Con Savvas in 1959. These and other migrant newcomers joined market stalwarts like Blackeby’s Old Lolly Shop from 1906, McMahons fruiterers (1920s) and Charlesworths Nuts (1924). Migrants from Asia, and particularly Southeast Asia, in 1970s and 1980s added to the Central Market precinct with Chinatown and Market Plaza, west of California Street to Moonta Street. The Central Market now has 250 traders under one roof as a distinctively Adelaide institution with a bustling cosmopolitan atmosphere. Lucia's daughters Nicci and Maria have seen the market's influence on changing Anglo tastes from the early days when very few drank coffee; instead, Bonox and Cottee’s cordial were on offer.
The many blue and white “Polites” signs on buildings in the Adelaide CBD are the legacy of property tycoon Constantine George Polites. Born in 1919 at Port Pirie to Greek farming parents, Polities grew up in poverty. He left school at 16 and set up a deli-snack bar at the age of 16. He moved to Adelaide at 19 and worked as a general hand at Woolworths in Rundle Street before starting several businesses of his own. Polites made his first real estate purchases, including a building in Grenfell Street across from Harris Scarfe’s, in 1959 and into the 1960s, continually buying cheap city buildings. Polites put a blue-and-white sign with his name on each building. Hindley Street has the most signs from the buyup that continued in the 1970s and 1980s. Polites rarely sold his properties but rented out his huge stock of mainly tired and neglected buildings. He was also a noticeable figure around town, driving a 1977 Cadillac, often smoking a cigar. Polites died in 2001. His son George and now grandsons carry on the Princes Polites Group real estate business.
Adelaide Central Market Arcade, between Victoria Square and the Central Market, returned to Adelaide City Council control in 2017 – the end of the 50-years lease granted to Jack Weinert in 1967. Weinert was another of the Adelaide’s self-made multi-million migrant-background developers, starting as a young orphan in Unley. The G.J. Coles store was a key part of Weinert’s development of the eastern two acres of the Central Market that had an arcade of shops and the Langham Hotel. Weinert, who built his first supermarket in 1956, went into a partnership with Coles in 1964 to build and develop Adelaide suburban shopping centres. The Weinert Group of Companies he founded is still active in Adelaide city with a $40 million revival of Rundle Mall Plaza around the opening of a store for Swedish retail giant H&M in 2018. The end of the Central Market Arcade lease in 2017 opened the way for Adelaide city council to seek developers for a possible high-rise project on the site.
Gerry Karidis arrived in Adelaide as an 18-year-old migrant from the Greek island of Lefkada in 1956 and worked as a Port Adelaide wharfie, before, with extra labouring and concreting with brother Don, soon raised enough money to build their first house at Ottoway using mainly recycled materials and picking up skills from tradies. Karidis became a medium-sized developer specialising in Adelaide’s western suburbs. His first big commercial project came in 1961 at Mile End, helped by an investment from Ken Saunders. This was the start of a multi-million corporation that pushed new benchmarks as a developer in South Australia and Victoria. In the 1980s, Karidis became an early and energetic proponent for repopulating the city of Adelaide into a vibrant, affordable and more liveable space. For three decades, he campaigned relentlessly for urban consolidation in Adelaide. This won him friends and enemies. In 2013, Karidis, with another Greek-heritage developer Theo Maras, was honoured as an inaugural property icon by the Property Council of Australia for reinvigorating many quadrants of the city and metropolitan areas, and an outstanding contribution to the industry and community.
Theo Maras, from a Greek migrant background, had a major effect on reviving the East End after the shutdown of the fruit and produce exchange in that part of the city in 1988. An architectural draughtsman, Maras in 1980 joined a partnership called Mancorp converting older CBD offices, factories and warehouses. Mancorp’s Rundle East Company (now a division of the Maras Group, formed in 2006) was the only Australian firm in the top five to win the state government tender for the commercial side of the Garden East development, with the Liberman Group doing the residential. This was the City of Adelaide’s most significant project after the 1980s/early 1990s recession had halted development. Garden East started in 1993 as the most important inner-city regeneration in decades. The Maras Rundle East Company took control of the commercial buildings along Rundle Street, from East Terrace (on the east side) to Union Street (on the west). The East End now blends cafes, restaurants, fashion stores, speciality retail, cinemas, pubs, wine bars, and a mix of professional and creative services. Theo Maras has contributed widely to South Australia as member of many boards.
Max Liberman, regarded as the father of modern housing development in South Australia, including creating Garden East, Adelaide’s first CBD high-rise housing, in the East End. In 1993, aged 72, Liberman came out of retirement in Sydney and returned to Adelaide to tackle revitalising the “bomb site”: the relics of the East End fruit and produce exchange that closed in 1988. Liberman Group developed nine award-winning residential buildings known as Garden East into part of a $100 million residential and commercial hive. Despite the controversies that Garden East's modestly multi-storey buildings generated, Liberman believed high-rise accommodation was needed to make Adelaide competitive. Born in Egypt to Austrian parents, Liberman migrated to Adelaide in the late 1940s and became involved in some of Adelaide metropolitan area's biggest housing projects, most notably West Lakes. In 1992, West Lakes won the inaugural FIABCI international Real Estate Federation’s Prix D’Excellence in Switzerland as the world’s best housing development. Liberman was most proud of West Lakes and Garden East.
Adelaide City Council owns and operates about 6,300 off-street car parking spaces in nine places across the city through its UPark brand. It also manages 18,400 on-street parking spaces. In 2014, the council’s revenue from parking fines was found to have jumped $4.5 million — or 50%— to $13.4m in the previous four years. The council is developing an internet app to helping motorists find available on-street parks and to remind them when the space time limit is due to expire.
CITY COUNCILLOR JOHN BONYTHON'S WARNING IN 1963: 'CITY'S HISTORY IN STONE VANISHING'
The Depression and a World War II restrictions on materials meant Adelaide city buildings became dilapidated by the 1950s. Aside for the razing of many older buildings for road widening, a mentality developed that anything new represented progress. City councilor John Bonython in 1963 lamented the “city's history in stone vanishing”. He warned that tourism would fall every time the city did away with distinctively Adelaide 19th Century buildings.
During the 1960s, Adelaide city lost many of its finest, and some of its most significant, buildings, including the 1882 ES&A Bank building in King William Street; the 1867 Theatre Royal in Hindley Street; the South Australian Hotel on North Terrace, the education building in Flinders Street and the 1886-7 Exhibition Building on North Terrace. The Theatre Royal was razed, despite an appeal by visiting poet and connoisseur of architecture John Betjemann: “I bitterly regretted any plan which might lead to the loss of the Theatre Royal – quite one of the prettiest theatres I've seen”. It is now the site of a multi-storey carpark. But 1966-67, lord mayor and businessman Walter “Wally” Bridgland said it was “vital for the development of Adelaide that the old move aside for the new and that the new is a result of well considered and balanced planning”. This view was moderated by next lord mayor Robert Porter who stressed the need for a planning framework.
Pivotal in the heritage debate was the state government’s intervention in 1971 after a popular protest to retain the former premises of the Bank of South Australia (now Edmund Wright House). This was followed by the Urban Systems Corporation report in 1974 leading to The City of Adelaide Plan with a register of places of significance. The city plan was adopted in 1976 and the state government’s Heritage Act passed in 1978. The council considered a heritage study a year later.
The loss of the Aurora Hotel, on the north east corner of Pirie Street and Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide, in 1983 was a watershed in Adelaide city heritage conservation. In the early 1980s, Adelaide City Council promoted plans to redevelop town acres east of Hindmarsh Square. A.W. Baulderstone gained approval to demolish the Aurora Hotel. Because of the building’s history and architecture, the threat of the Aurora being razed set off South Australia’s most strenuous campaign to save a historic building, involving union bans, court injunctions and a month-long picket by an action committee.The fact that the hotel was not on the five-year-old State Heritage Register disillusioned many people. The incident led to closer public scrutiny of the Adelaide City Plan and the council’s links with property developers.
CAPITAL CITY COMMITTEE ADOPTS REVIVAL FOCUS FOR THE CITY IN LATE 1990s
The special combined focus on the Adelaide city square mile by the state government and city council is expressed through the Capital City Committee. Set up in 1998, the committee recognises the City of Adelaide's special role in social, commercial, cultural and civic life. Among its vision priorities have been activated side streets and laneways, responsive planning; early evening experience and late-night economy; environmental sustainability and a connected smart city.
Small bars, 3am closing for licensed drink venues, outdoor footpath dining and food trucks are among changes that have altered the feel of the city. The small bars were enabled by a new class of liquor licence in 2013 when a late-night code was brought in for licensed drink venues for a 3am lockout, along with other measures to curb drunken violence. The city council set guidelines for outdoor footpath dining areas in 2014. The revival in food trucks has been less succesful.
REDEVELOPED ADELAIDE OVAL A FULCRUM FOR CITY RESURGENCE AROUND THE RIVERBANK
Adelaide's Festival Centre has taken a turn to the north, with its main entrance now facing onto the River Torrens and Elder Park under a $90 million upgrade of the centre in 2017-18 – the most significant works since the centre’s opening in 1973. New entries to the main theatre and Dunstan Playhouse were created plus major technical and equipment upgrades. Repairs to the Dunstan Playhouse shell fixed the exterior of the building and resolved long-standing issues with degraded concrete and water seeping.Disability access to all three theatres was increased, the Elder Park kiosk upgraded, an interactive children's play arts playground added and the Festival Theatre foyers renewed. Festival Drive has been lowered to lead into the centre's car parking, with improved pedestrian access between Adelaide Railway Station and the Torrens footbridge which gives crowds access to Adelaide Oval. A Hollywood-style walk of fame has curated video art on the large screens featuring many stars who have performed at the centre over the past 40 years. The upgrades include widening the east-west promenade and giving easier access to performances at the Dunstan Playhouse and Space Theatre.
The Riverbank aesthetic has been boosted by the $400 million east and west wing buildings for the Adelaide Convention Centre use geometric technology only available in the 21st Century. Hundreds of architects from Adelaide’s global firm Woods Bagot and American architect Larry Oltmanns exploited the geometric advances for the west wing. Its facade was inspired by colours and contours of South Australia's Flinders Ranges. The western extension, opened in 2015, faced the challenge of spanning the Adelaide railyard, equivalent in length to a 20-lane highway bridge structure. The Panorama Ballroom holds 600 dinner guests or seats 1,000 conference delegates, with a river view. The east building, opened in 2017, can be subdivided and configured within minutes as pre-function space, ballroom, exhibition or plenary with capacity of up to 3,500 seats.
The health and biomedical precinct presents an imposing 21st Century backdrop to the Riverbank's western end. Between the suburban rail lines and North Terrace, the precinct comprises the new 800-bed Royal Adelaide Hospital, the SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) building, Adelaide University’s Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences Building and the University of South Australia’s health innovation building. A SAHMRI2 building – the John Chalmers Centre for Transforming Health – is also proposed for the site. Royal Adelaide Hospital continues as a centre for excellence in medical research. It collaborates with Adelaide’s three universities in medical and nursing education. SAHMRI is the pioneer of the precinct. A new generation of top research minds is nurtured in its state-of-art headquarters, designed by Woods Bagot.
VISION TO COMBINE SMART AND GREEN INITIATIVES
The South Australian government and Adelaide City Council in 2015 formed a globally unique partnership to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2050. Despite doubters, the city council has maintained confidence in the target year, reduced to 2025, pointing to a 15% drop on carbon emissions during a 46% rise in residents, 35% more student enrolments and 42% more daily city users. In 2016, the state government and the City of Adelaide released the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Action Plan. Among its strategies were investing in energy efficiency and renewables, installing solar PV on low-income housing, laws to allow building owners to access private finance to upgrade buildings’ energy efficiency, investing in low emission public transport and encouraging cycling and walking; accelerating the use of electric vehicles, and reducing emissions from waste,. The Carbon Neutral Adelaide Awards, introduced in 2017, showcased community leaders and active contributors to the goal of City of Adelaide becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city. The awards incorporated the CitySwitch Green Office run successfully since 2008.
Adelaide City Council, which runs Tindo, the world’s first solar electric bus, has led Australia in offering cash incentives to business, residents, schools and groups for energy saving. These incentives, dovetailing with the smart city strategy, include: up to $50,000 for installing solar PV panels; up to $5000 for installing energy storage; up to $500 per elective vehicle charging system; up to $5000 for apartment energy upgrades; up to $1000 for switch to LED downlights. Other moves to further cut city emissions include upgrades to Adelaide Aquatic Centre, the city's largest energy consumer, and changes to laws, making it easier to make environmental upgrades to commercial buildings. The first City of Adelaide Building Upgrade Finance project was launched in 2017 at Angas Securities House where a 30kW solar PV unit, green wall, upgraded lighting to LED, and a power factor correction system brought energy cost savings of at least $56,000 a year.
The City of Adelaide has become the hub for an emerging electric vehicle (EV) charging network. The city and Noth Adelaide had 46 public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in 2018 – a rapid rise from two in the previous year. Forty-two of the stations have been installed by the City of Adelaide with the South Australian government, SA Power Networks and Mitsubishi at stations in strategic on-street locations and in the city council’s Upark carparks. Tesla also has four charging points at 109 Franklin Street, Adelaide – the first of a network of 50 charging points across South Australia. They are part of the agreement with the state government for Tesla to deliver the world’s largest lithium ion battery at Jamestown.
Journeys by bike in Adelaide CBD have doubled since 2003.This builds on Adelaide (state government, city council) hosting Velo-city Global 2014, Australia’s largest cycling planning conference, in 2014. The momentum will continue with the $12 million Bikeways Project, by the government and city council. It will create a north-south cycling corridor (replacing the controversial Frome Street bike lanes) and an east-west cycling corridor. Other key city cycling projects in the city have included: Pirie Street bike lanes; Hindley Street West redevelopment; Waymouth Street bike lanes; Pulteney Street bike boxes; and the Peacock Road /South Terrace intersection improvements. Bike parking and rails have been added at numerous locations across the city, including Adelaide Oval, UParks, Victoria Square and Rundle Mall.
BUILDING ON 21st CENTURY PUSH FOR ADELAIDE AS SMART CITY
Adelaide City Council appointed TPG in 2017 to roll out Ten Gigabit Adelaide, an Australia-first fibre optic-to-business CBD network with no installation costs for businesses. The $10 million-plus Ten Gigabit Adelaide initiative will supply Adelaide and North Adelaide businesses with internet speeds of between one or 10 gigabits per second. Local data company Pernix said Adelaide CBD with the network would leap from having an average internet service among the world’s slowest and most expensive to the fastest and cheapest by far. It favourably compares Adelaide to South Korean capital Seoul, considered the global leader for internet speed. The service is complementary to the National Broadband Network, a fibre-to-the-kerb network for residents (and some businesses) in Adelaide’s CBD.
AdelaideFree, providing free wireless coverage in outdoor areas across the CBD and North Adelaide, is the largest city wifi network in Australia and one of the biggest in the western world. Funded since 2014 by City of Adelaide and South Australian government, AdelaideFree was built and operated by Internode, a South Australian-based internet provider, now part of the iiNet group. The network, with more than 200 access points, was upgraded in 2017. Once connection it made to AdelaideFree WiFi network on a phone, tablet or laptop, it will automatically connect when in range. Locations for AdelaideFree wifi include Rundle Mall and Hutt Street locations, Adelaide Central Market, Adelaide Zoo, Botanic Garden kiosk and the Art Gallery of South Australia,