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Steffen Eric Friedlein, Managing Director Leasing Services at ECE Marketplaces. Credit: ECE

Creating places people want to visit

“We are all convinced that placemaking makes brick-and-mortar retail attractive, forward-looking, and an experience.”

By Steffen Eric Friedlein

The options for expanding the non-retail offerings of a portfolio have never been as diverse as they are now. The momentum is on the side of retail locations and, in particular, shopping center operators, as a look at consumer spending in Germany on leisure, entertainment, and culture underscores the following: Of the average household budget, 9% (or €259 per month) goes toward leisure and cultural offerings. The desire for entertainment–and an even more entertaining world in an era of increasing digitalization–is greater than ever.

This desire among customers is also changing the character of shopping centers. A 5-year comparison of the increase in space occupied by leisure and entertainment offerings, which posted a 25% gain, reveals a clear trend and shows that people want new concepts that create space for lasting experiences going well beyond mere shopping. As a successful operator of national and international shopping centers, we at ECE Marketplaces have always been focused on identifying, planning, and building innovative experience concepts–in close cooperation with our retail partners and the owners of the centers. We call the creation of such urban experience spaces “placemaking”. We are all convinced that placemaking makes brick-and-mortar retail attractive, forward-looking, and an experience.

Working together, we want to create a sense of community, social interaction, and sensory experiences (smelling, tasting, seeing, touching)–the internet cannot provide any of that. In the online age, the goal is to showcase what cannot be digitized. This ranges from premium cinemas to open-kitchen restaurants, trampoline parks, (e)-sport(s) spaces, indoor skydiving, the Planet Arcade, and fascinating underwater worlds through to entertainment highlights such as Smurf villages for the little ones. We not only execute concepts at top locations where they will reach their target groups and achieve the corresponding footfall, but we also develop and implement experience concepts as well, like e-sports arcades.

The art of placemaking does not involve arbitrarily pulling together individual components, but rather thinking these components through, both by and for people locally, and then bringing them into harmony with the history of the respective location. Whether it is creative design architects, developers, leasing managers, or management, implementing an idea requires the interdisciplinary expertise of a number of participants with various focal points–that is the key to success. 

The same is true for the Foodtopia entertainment and dining level developed and constructed by ECE. This project involved creating a completely new meeting point in the heart of Frankfurt. The new concepts breathed life into the entire center in the form of trendy food and entertainment providers, attracting new visitor target groups to the center. The Potsdamer Platz Arkaden in Berlin is currently undergoing a complete visual and conceptual repositioning, converting it into a retail and entertainment destination with international high street flair and a number of “emblem stores” by 2022.

Shopping centers are and will continue to be urban meeting points. Their future lies in their continuous transformation from pure shopping destinations to places for experience and enjoyment. After all, places that always surprise people make them long for more.


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