The contemporary urban commons: a case study of Darling Harbour, Sydney

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Conference Proceeding
COBRA 2010 - The Construction, Building and Real Estate Research Conference of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (CIB W113 Papers on Law and Dispute Resolution), 2010, pp. 809 - 826
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This paper reports on research funded by the RICS Education Trust. We offer an analysis of the contested state of contemporary urban commons in an Australian city, through a case study of the Darling Harbour scheme in Sydney. Moral claims of ownership often outweigh legal claims of ownership in the scarce public spaces that comprise the contemporary urban commons. We question if these contemporary commons provide a counter-weight to the privatised rigidities of urban capitalist societies. Our research design incorporated an analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to test a mosaic of property rights in the contested commons. This mosaic essentially comprises a spectrum of property rights, resulting in a variety of contemporary common that range from spaces with unrestricted public access to private leasehold property with limited public access rights. We identify several distinct types of commons at Darling Harbour. We engaged an Expert Choice analysis of interview data to ascertain the relative importance of each kind of property right for users and lessees of different kinds of spaces in Darling Harbour. This enables Darling Harbour to be mapped as a heterogeneous commons comprising a set of spaces that each has their own distinctive mosaic of predominant perceived property rights.
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