Smarter Healthy Cities- Dr Jon Drane

City growth, Precinct Activation Rhodes City Whisperer Jon Drane precinct activation The City Whisperer explores the future of smarter healthy cities. It focuses on mental health and the city and how we can build better cities of the future.

Smarter Healthy Cities- The City Whisperer explores the future of smarter healthy cities. It focuses on mental health and the city and how we can build better cities of the future.

Dr Jonathan Drane created the City Whisperer from his doctoral research into dead city areas and how they can be re-activated.

The film called The Horse Whisperer which starred Robert Redford and Kristin Scott-Thomas inspired The City Whisperer.

Dr Jon’s doctoral research (2011-2015) focussed on dead city areas and he watched how they re-morphed into vibrant city areas (and some did not).

However the meaning of City Whisperer has grown since it was introduced soon after Dr Jon’s doctorate in 2015.

As with the movie The Horse Whisperer, which centred around the rehabilitation of a greatly loved but injured horse, the city has become a similar metaphor.

In the case of cities as time goes by, they are greatly loved but are suffering from a malaise also. The health and even mental health of cities is now in question.

The City Whisperer explores Mental Health and the City and looks at cities as if they had their own City Persona and The Mental Health of Cities.

And if it was a person, ‘what is its mental health score’. In fact how mental is your city?

Dr Jonathan Drane

Dr Jonathan Drane The City Whisperer
Dr Jonathan Drane

We also acknowledge the work of Charles Landry who was nick named The City Whisperer refer ABC documentary by the same title.

The City Whisperer was born also from the amazing ‘catalyst research’ undertaken by Dr Drane through his Optimum City Research established in 1993 see

Books and Publications

Jonathan is also a recognised award winning author in the non-fiction and historical genre winning an award for his first book on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of a Thousand Arrows) in 2007 with the NSW Writers Centre.

The Way of a Thousand Arrows-The Camino de Santiago

Get your blog article published on The City Whisperer

We love good articles and Dr Drane welcomes early to mid career researchers and students to write a small article about their fascination with cities.

We vet the article and co-author it if it is explorative and exciting.

See our blog post:

Write an Article on city growth and publish it on the City Whisperer

Here are some of the activities we are engaged in:

The Defects Dilemma

Research into dangerous defects in multi apartment towers. Independent catalyst  research advocating for systemic change in the property development interface and structures of industry.

Research Centre Tracks Building Defects Chronology

Expert Triage: Forensic Analysis of Defective Buildings: Expert Witness, Research, Advisory

Jonathan undertakes forensic analysis of the systems of development and construction that often lead to building defects that are witnessed in the Australian commercial high rise building sector.

Expert Triage- Complex Property and Construction Analysis

Join Our Linked In Group: The Property Development Doctor

The group was started in the wake of tragedies across the Globe in multi-apartment fires.  The focus is on defects in the Australian Commercial Property Development Industry in the High Rise Multi-Apartment Sector which is an area that is not protected well by legislative processes and licensing.

How Safe is your Apartment Tower?

Book a History Check on your Multi-Apartment tower


Night Owl Night Economy Field Research

Our night owl research allows local govt areas to understand their night economy and the drivers and anchors.

How well do you know your night economy?

Webinars on Research Skills

Webinars on research skills including social research methods; literature mapping, case study, interviewing, project management of field research.



Executive Training Workshops

Jonathan provides executive education on the property development process to industry executives in the government, business and academic sector on property development and city growth dynamics with a focus on city precinct activation.

UDIA Development Essentials Workshop includes Project Management Principles by Dr Drane

New Game Learning Platform

Game Learning by Dr Drane- Online Training in City and Property Development

Dr Drane’s Master Class platform has a new offering in the exciting Game Learning platform on which is an exciting game and quizz learning platform.

New! Game Learning Platform on

City Precinct Activation: Advisory & Research

Jonathan is a recognised expert in city precinct development with an emphasis on activation of dormant cityscapes. Jonathan’s doctoral research project (2011 to 2014) studied dormant cityscapes in several Australian regional cities  and how they were bought to life.

Going beyond just a research emphasis he was involved in the revitalisation of the Palmer Street Precinct, Townsville (2003 to 2008) as a catalyst developer. In this way he has both researched and been involved as a practitioner in this specific field of urban activation.

His advisory profile ranges from planning urban development of dormant cityscapes, to forensic analysis of complex construction and property development problems in legal and industry situations.


Research Publications: City Growth Dynamics

Jonathan was awarded a doctorate at UNSW Faculty of Built Environment in March 2015 for his dissertation ‘The Seed in the Cityscape- The property development mechanism and its influence on the growth of cities’. The research was conducted under an Australian Post Graduate Award. The research gathered together two decades of prior research.

How do you bring dead city areas to life again?

Thanks for visiting The City Whisperer. Please feel free to contact with any query or feedback. See the form below.

Dr Jonathan Drane


General contact form

Relevant Links:

Link to UNSW Library for Published Doctorate

Research Sites – Jonathan Drane

Jonathan’s Linked In Profile