Urban design brings amenity to the water’s edge | GroupGSA


Global design studio, GroupGSA, has reimagined coastal urban amenities in a visionary 30-year-old Waterfront project, Shell Cove.

The planned residential, commercial and tourism development – a $1.5 billion joint venture between Shellharbour City Council and Frasers Property Group – involved the creation of a world-class urban district comprising 2.5 km of foreshore parks designed by GroupGSA, connecting the public realm to a marina of 270 berths, surrounding beaches and coastal wetlands.

GroupGSA project manager Steven Hammond seized on this unique project opportunity.

“The neighborhood’s inimitable location between the Pacific Ocean and the Illawarra Escarpment makes it a strong asset as an idyllic place to live and visit,” says Steven. “Shell Cove embraces city life down to the water’s edge. We’ve distilled the best features of a rugged public domain into a local beachside setting.

Dubbed the South Coast’s newest coastal playground, the town center is complemented by a waterfront plaza, children’s beach, water play areas and adventure playgrounds scattered along the parks from the foreshore. A 117-room hotel, marina service center, library and community center are scheduled for completion in 2023.

The way all amenities lead directly to the port is unique to the project. “Shell Cove is one of the few destinations in Australia that has an intimate sense of connection to water,” says Steven. “Instead of lining the harbor with only apartments, the master plan positions amenities, such as the community center and public library, retail, restaurants and beverages directly on the waterfront, so the heart of the community is at the center of the compound.”

Steven says the challenge with new developments is to make them feel authentic and real. “Shell Cove’s design brings a diverse mix of people to its town center and encourages them to stay,” he says.

Landscaped terraces and layered boardwalks line the harbour, stretching from the breakwater to the groyne. A sheltered swimming area, public parks, picnic areas, and a network of bicycle and walking paths connect residences, housing, and schools.

GroupGSA landscape architect Federico Zanet said the promenade offers a feast of visual change. There are grassed areas where you can sit and picnic overlooking the marina and the northern promontory. More formal tiered sandstone settings offer stunning views.

“You can touch the water from the boardwalk; you can glide atop a kayak or boat; you can feel it underfoot at the city beach or savor the view from afar at one of the lookouts. We really played as much as possible at the water’s edge,” says Federico.

Shell Cove was cleverly designed with ease of access on foot in mind so that residents could leave their cars at home, while visitors, once there, would not have to search for their keys.

“You can be in the city center and walk to the beach in five to ten minutes,” says Federico. “Bass Point is a 15-20 minute walk away. There are also scenic trails to Lake Illawarra just an hour’s walk away.”

A unique public game path runs along the foreshore to encourage users to stroll around the harbour. A whirlpool column, fun mirrors, talking tubes, periscopes and a treasure hunt board are among the highlights of the interactive kids’ course.

“It brings a child-friendliness to the compound; a lightness and a sense of play that permeates the entire enclosure, not just the foreshore. It’s a very family destination,” says Steven.

The approved master plan includes plans for 1,500 homes, including 600 luxury apartments, the majority with seafront views.

Shell Cove is located 20 minutes south of Wollongong and 1.5 hours drive from Sydney.


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