Fast-forward two decades and imagine Mt Barker’s town centre streets lined with five-storey apartment blocks and offices.
It’s a challenging thought that high rise developments as tall as the Flinders Medical Centre could take the place of the town’s pool and caravan park, form the backdrop along its creeks and overshadow tiny historic cottages.
Clearly the community has decided that vision is not one it wants for Mt Barker circa 2035.
Their overwhelming opposition to the council’s proposed new maximum building height limit in the town centre is justified.
Such buildings would be far too big for the narrow streets and historic precincts along which they are proposed.
But the fact remains that Mt Barker is a rapidly growing town, undergoing a painful transformation from sleepy country town to bustling regional centre.
These growing pains are placing extra pressure on the town centre to meet the demands of business and community expectations.
Office accommodation is in short supply and there are limited opportunities for those who want to live in the heart of the town.
Residents also expect that Mt Barker will offer the 21st Century infrastructure, shopping opportunities and services befitting a regional centre.
With that extra pressure on a limited town centre, it makes sense to build up.
It creates environmental benefits by condensing the CBD in a confined footprint, while also opening up opportunities for commerce and the community to coexist in a way that can breathe vibrancy into the heart of the town.
There are plenty of examples in inner city Adelaide of well-designed two to three storey developments mixing apartment living with cafes, shops and offices.
This gives new housing opportunities to those who don’t want a big house but do want easy access to services and shops, such as the young and elderly.
Such vibrancy can still be achieved in Mt Barker’s town centre with a reduced height limit of two to three storeys and innovative design to ensure the town centre becomes a pleasant and productive heart rather than a concrete jungle.
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