Restart the Heart: Urban Surgery to Save City Life

Mr Dave Charnley, Urban Designer at Palmerston North City Council will be joining us at the 2017 International Urban Design Conference to discuss “Restart the heart: Urban surgery to save city life”


The Square or Te Marae O Hine (the courtyard of the daughter of peace) in Palmerston North, NZ (Pop 85,000) is a 17 ha open space physically located at the heart of the city, closely held in the hearts and minds of residents and those who visit.

David Charnley

Central to early city life, the Square was where visitors arrived by train, commerce occurred and public events were held. As the city grew and transportation and retail models changed a weakening of the city heart occurred that by the early 2000’s little city life within the Square remained.

Key causes:

-Increased vehicle ownership
-Relocation of rail line to edge of the city
-City sprawl
-Large format retailing
-High concealment, difficult egress and poor quality of assets
-Space claim by groups – sense of fear and criminal activity


In 2004 Palmerston North City Council set about a series of catalytic design and strategy steps in an attempt to reclaim The Square, restart the city heart, and allow visible public life to once again flourish.

Key moves:

-City Heart Project – The Square 2004
Applied CPTED principles as key redevelopment driver

Urban Design Strategy 2010

8 Key initiatives to lift the quality of urban design across the city, in particular:
(a) Apply a centres based approach to city development
(b) Embed urban design criteria into the District Plan, in particular in the Business Zone
(c) ‘Placemaking’ encourage community led solutions to public realm occupation


-Improved sight lines, access and movement
-Increased high quality, usable space for people
-A safe destination a massive reduction in crime
-Increased official city events and place activation
-Increased visible public life
-Community led events and activation
-Launch of ‘Palmy Unleashed’ with design power shifting to community groups and PNCC now providing the wrap around support to make things happen
-Outside perception of city changing

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017. This year there are optional tours available on Wednesday 15 November. These will include visiting two of the precincts that have been designed and built for the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast in April 2018.

Find out more here.


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