Creating a sense of place, or placemaking, is one of the most talked about elements of a successful shopping center today. The phrase “sense of place” can mean a lot of different things, but it is essentially about crafting an atmosphere where people want to come to a shopping center and have a desire to stay there for a while.
Typically, we think about amenities offered in a center’s common areas as the key to successful placemaking. Architecture and tenant mix are also key components. Regardless of how it is accomplished, creating a sense of place is vital if a shopping center is going to be able to compete and lure shoppers to come to it. With consumers’ ability to order almost anything online, developers need to create a compelling reason for shoppers to get off the couch, get into their car, and come to their center.
Public art, beautifully landscaped common areas, unique water features, outdoor furniture, and games are but a few of the items that can help set the scene. Great restaurants with active patios, and entertainment-oriented tenants such as theaters, bowling, and fitness centers are more examples of the types of tenants that draw people. Compelling architecture with attention to detail and great lighting are also key. Public and municipal services and regularly-programmed public events are also important to fashioning that sense of place.
The size and type of shopping center being developed dictates the scale of the placemaking efforts, but whether it’s a convenience strip, a large open-air town center, or a grocery-anchored center, the ability to create the right sense of place is needed. People are social beings and will always have a desire to congregate, so the opportunity to create a captivating atmosphere where people want to shop, eat, play, and hang out will enable shopping centers to thrive.
John Zikos is Principal and Managing Partner of Venture Commercial Real Estate.