The 2014 Future Cities Program coincided with the review of the NSW Planning system where community, local government, and industry called for the emphasis to be more on ‘strategic’ planning rather than on development assessment – in essence, getting planning right up front rather than arguing over the details when the big mistakes may have been made or the greatest opportunities lost. In this environment, there was a strong appetite for capacity-building amongst elected leaders to make strategic planning decisions for their community. Therefore the 2014 Future Cities Program focused on evidence based strategic planning to re-build and re-vitalise communities.

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.

The participating cities included City of Canada Bay Council, Gosford City Council, Hornsby Shire Council, Marrickville Council, Pittwater Council and Wollongong City Council.

The program was supported by urban design and sustainable development experts including American urban design and planning experts Peter J. Park and Colin Cathcart and the Core Resource Team; Kinesis, Sandy Burgoyne, Harriet Whyte and post graduate students from the Masters in Urban Design program at the University of Sydney, under the supervision of Associate Professor Rod Simpson, Director of the Urban Design program.

A Future City Primer, which included a summary of sustainability metrics (including economic, energy and carbon impacts) was provided to each city delegation to be used as provocations for innovation and ias a benchmark for analysis of the outcomes of the strategic scenarios following completion of the Future Cities Program. 

Launch photos

2014 Future Cities Program Launch

Mayors' Forum Photos

2014 Future Cities Program Mayors' Forum

Participating cities

The delegation from Pittwater Council, including Mayor Jacqueline Townsend (in white) discusses their precinctSource: USSC

The delegation from Wollongong City Council - including Lord Mayor, Clr Gordon Bradbery (centre)Source: USSC

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The Future Cities Resource Team help the delegation from City of Canada Bay Council with real-time scenario modellingSource: USSC

The Gosford City Council delegation work on their precinct Source: USSC

Mayor of Marrickville, Clr Jo Haylen, presents their findings and initial plan at the completion of the Future Cities Program Mayors' ForumSource: USSC

The Hornsby Shire Council delegation, led by Mayor Steve Russell, develop plans for their precinctSource: USSC


The cornerstone of the Future Cities Collaborative is the Future Cities Program, which focuses on supporting both regional and metroplitan city leaders in Australia, with knowledge, skills and resources to build sustainable and liveable communities. The program was conceived and led by Professor Ed Blakely, Sandy Burgoyne and Harriet Whyte. The program is based on the Mayors’ Institute on City Design conducted in the United States, where like-minded leaders work with experts to develop innovative solutions for re-designing precincts so they are great places to live and work, and are also adaptive to the changes in energy and water demands — from renewing town centres or high streets, to re-designing community precincts and parks, or alternative transport possibilities. In the United States, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities, and it is towards this aim of capacity-building that the Future Cities Program works.

The program comprises four stages:

  1. Project selection: where submitted projects are reviewed and selected to participate in the program.
  2. Mayor’s Forum: a three day workshop will be led by experts in urban re-design and sustainable development from Australia and the United States.  Workshop activities focus on the real issue that each city will bring for discussion and strategy formulation.
  3. City Exchange: after the three-day workshop, all of the selected communities will be invited to a City Exchange to the United States to examine community sustainability and livability transformations. 
  4. Project review and evaluation: following the City Exchange, city leaders will have the opportunity to apply learnings to the development of the precinct.