The Cairns CBD faces significant challenges. Retailers and restaurants are doing it tough and
the streets lack greenery and vibrancy. Here’s what we can do to bring it back to life.

1. Fine grain facades and active frontages
They have a rhythm to them. A consistent feel of 10-metre wide window and frontages allows for activity and lots of it, inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use. There is huge value in eyes on the street; people in shops look out, people on the street look in. This creates interest and can be entertaining. It attracts people. Grafton Street is a great example of this.

2. Dead frontages
These turn their backs or blank sides on to the street and leave the city and the people blind. These areas are not interesting, often perceived as unsafe and usually are places you drive to. Examples include parts of Cairns Central, the western side of Sheridan St  including state government offices, the police station and courthouse.

3. Permanent residential accommodation
Residential living is part of the solution to parking and traffic due to on-site parking. It also puts more people on the footpath - looking, shopping, eating - creating vibrancy and helping out our small businesses. Locals living in the city use the city at all times of the day and evening.

4. Diversity
This is really important. The more a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its streets, the more its people support well-located attractions. Rusty’s Markets and Grafton Street are the best examples in our city.

5. Time
A crucial element to vitality in a CBD. Vibrant places are active from sunrise to midnight, attracting different people at different times of the day, week, and year. Think how differently office workers use the city compared to tourists and families. When we get the mix of uses right there is activity all day, every day. Rusty’s and Grafton Street are again the best examples. The Esplanade and Lagoon area and Shields Street don’t quite have the mix of people across all time frames - yet!

6. Permeability
This means the measure of alternative ways to navigate through the city. Laneways and foyers through buildings are local secrets and are fun for visitors to discover.

7. Line of sight
Knowing where you are going and knowing that it is safe at different times of the day. Shields Street and the waterfront are examples of where attention has been given to enhancing the line of sight.

8. Legibility
Makes it easy for people to understand the city’s layout. How many times do you see tourists on corners trying to figure out where they are? The use of landmarks, signage, art, and places of interest allows differentiation of routes and corners by designing them with differing qualities of materials.

9. Robustness
Places that are used for many different purposes, offering their users more choice than places with a single fixed use. Consider how we close streets for cultural events and the difference between active and dead frontages.

10. Identity
Gives our city meaning and character. A combination of landscaping, street furniture, public art and open space design reflects the history of the people from ‘here’

11. Temperature
As far as our tropical city goes there is an obvious shortage of shade and greenery in our CBD just now. It is not just trees but the right trees. Raintrees and fig trees have the greatest effect on temperature and shade. 


Published in Issue 16 / Tropic Magazine