Placemaking is the multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. The evolution of retail and leisure is playing a significant role within this growing trend, embracing new technology and creating spaces with collective human benefits to fend off competition from the internet.
The creation of quality places with a strong sense of identity doesn’t just happen though.
For placemaking to work well, the strategy has to be universal – creating quality places that people want to live, work, play and learn in. So when it comes to retail property marketing, if an occupier cannot understand the development as a whole, then selling the retail proposition will be an uphill struggle.
For most new mixed-use developments, the retail element is still hugely important in terms of how it shapes the place. Mixed-use formerly meant a few shops or restaurants as part of major office developments, such as Brindley Place. But now even small(ish) mixed-use projects like our Hallsville Quarter in Canning Town has 1,000 residential units and nearly 300,000 sq ft of retail & leisure. This is due to the recognition that ground floors define environments and add real (not hypothetical) value to upper floors. This could also be the thinking behind the Westfield option to add residential above their retail schemes at some point in the future.
Another good example is the first phase of IQL Stratford, where we have ten A1/A3 units for Lend Lease and 1 million sq ft of offices. The quality of the public realm, amenities and overall point of difference offered by the ground floor occupiers will leverage rent and tenant demand for the remaining 1 million sq ft of office space. Even if the retail element only adds 1% to the office rents, the capital value uplift will be more than £5million – a return that is certainly worth paying attention to the tenant mix for, even if retail rents take a back seat.
It’s certainly not a straightforward process though, completion phasing on large-scale projects can vary significantly. At Elephant Park, our greatest challenge is that occupiers expect the finished article when they begin trading but developers require retail to be open ahead of other occupants arriving on site.
Getting the mix right is also absolutely vital. When done well, great placemaking capitalises on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being. As such our retail strategies need to build around buzzing and vibrant F&B within food hall concepts like London Union and Eataly, as well as “third spaces” like gyms and clubs with community uses.
Within our work at King’s Cross the challenge of getting the first few brands on board, plus managing the expectations of landlords on what was achievable, was helped because the ‘brand’ had been articulated incredibly well in advance of any actual openings – meaning that both occupiers and potential audiences could understand the proposition better than other developments of comparable scale where the message was less clear.
When working on Clarence Dock in Leeds for Lend Lease, we discovered that a previously niche retail leasing template had been employed. However, when factors like the local demographic, access, proximity of competition and footfall were considered, this route failed against objectives and strengthened the case for a bespoke application of certain principles.
At Nash Bond we see placemaking as the fast-forwarding of organic growth. Many of the best neighbourhoods in London with a clear market proposition have evolved over 100 years or more (even with fragmented ownership). For many landlords, placemaking means creating a place out of a collection of new buildings with no co-ordinated identity. For us, it’s a more hands on approach, where an identity has evolved but has not matured or where the area’s aesthetic suggests that something better could be achieved. In London this thinking could apply for example to Lamb’s Conduit Street, Leadenhall Market, Putney High Street or Marble Arch.
Success requires a clear vision of what the place is, as well as what will and won’t work, in order to achieve. Celebrating individuality is also key, as that is what defines our sense of place.
Getting the balance right between retail, F&B and environment is crucial – as is sustainability – although practicalities can often get in the way as seen in the current battle for pedestrianisation on Oxford Street.
At Nash Bond we experienced this first hand in our work at West One on Oxford Street and we learnt that global success requires a strong master plan developed in conjunction with the landlord, the occupiers and also the planning authorities.