Placemaking – the new retail sustainability buzzword?

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The concept of placemaking traditionally descends from architecture and the practice of designing places for people, rather than for infrastructure. We are now seeing placemaking being considered beyond the design and development of a place, and throughout its management, marketing and even valuation.


Contributing to local communities

Placemaking is about making a place relevant and attractive for everyone – the developer, tenants, local communities and of course customers. Shopping centres have historically been relied upon for meeting day-to-day shopping needs. They are now reinventing themselves as community centres – offering community services in addition to shopping, and fulfilling a vital role as meeting places and support systems for local communities.

Landlords are keen to recognise and increase the positive impact their places have on local people and local economies. With retail places employing over three million people, and jobs at risk from digitalisation, companies such as Intu and Hammerson are seeking to better understand the contribution they can make to employment and skill generation.  Hammerson’s Positive Placemaking principles set out its approach to creating great places through design, development and asset management, covering a range of themes from local jobs and skills to supporting local enterprise and partnering with local community groups.

Redefining retail environments

In managing their places, companies need to be proactive in responding to the changing needs of their stakeholders. Two thirds of retail spend growth is coming from the over 55s, and the purple pound (spend by people with a disability) is worth £250 billion to the economy.  To maximise footfall and sales, companies are thinking about how to make their assets better places for these groups, by providing amenities such as more seating, quiet spaces and dementia-friendly trained customer service staff.

Tenants too are looking at how they need to adapt their spaces to meet the changing expectations of customers. Thanks to the rise of online shopping, more retailers are enticing people through their doors with new attractions, demonstrations, curated talks, fitness classes and much more. This is creating vibrant and dynamic places where people come, time and time again.

Partnering for positive impact

Successful placemaking requires collaboration between landlords and tenants, and with other key stakeholders in the local community.  M&S recently announced an ambitious community transformation programme as part of its Plan A 2025 commitments; it will partner with local councils and charity partners to support communities to deliver positive, measurable change. The programme will initially be piloted in ten communities over the next two years, when M&S will trial a range of actions designed to tackle the issues that matter most to communities – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, and mental health and wellbeing.

Defining and valuing great places

And placemaking is not just happening in retail. The British Council of Offices launched its guide for offices in 2016, setting out four pillars of great placemaking: vibrancy, connectivity, a sense of wellbeing and context. The residential sector has been ‘placemaking’ for years; Berkeley launched its Creating Successful Place toolkit in 2014, and Telford Homes has developed its Living Legacy framework based on best practice placemaking principles.

At JLL, we believe the value of a great place is more than just the market value of its buildings and we are increasingly looking to assess the intangible value created by a successful place.  There is growing evidence that thinking about a place holistically can enhance its value. For example, it will increase employee and customer satisfaction, dwell time and sales, grow rents as tenants compete for a spot in the best places, and therefore impact on asset value. But most importantly, it puts people at the heart of property, ensuring we create great places where people want to live, work and shop.

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