From your point of view, what should the placemaking industry expect in 2023?
“We expect that the placemaking industry will further increase its emphasis on sustainability as the core of its strategy to both increase quality of life and make the most out of the public spaces that different schemes have to offer. More private entities, including our premium outlet shopping destinations, are putting a strong focus on reducing their carbon footprint to meet the latest COP26 goals. At VIA Outlets, we are working hard to reduce ours as well. Guided by our ‘Beyond Sustainable’ strategy, we have a clear roadmap ahead of us to achieve the emission reduction and energy usage intensity targets set out by the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) tool.”
What opportunities and challenges do you see?
“One of the broader challenges facing placemaking is the erosion of public and/or social spaces where people can spend time. At VIA Outlets, placemaking is one of our focus areas, we see this as an opportunity to position our centers as social spaces. Our guests can spend quality time with friends and family at our centers across Europe while browsing their favorite brands, and enjoying diverse food and beverage options, unique activations, art exhibitions, and facilities such as playgrounds and gardens. Our buildings integrate local design elements and accessible art by local artists, which are all part of our ‘beautiful local’ approach. With the return of in-person retail in 2022, we remain committed to providing our guests their perfect day out.”
In your view, is the placemaking industry facing any fundamental or long-term changes?
“After the pandemic, we have seen many local authorities developing a concerted placemaking agenda and starting to identify talents and resources within their communities. This renewed emphasis on looking at the ‘local’ is also reflected in our ‘beautiful local’ approach, where we work closely with local governments and firms to prioritize long-term schemes that integrate and benefit local identities and a ‘sense of place’. One example of this approach in our portfolio is the extension of Sevilla Fashion Outlet. We are working with L35 Architects to integrate local heritage into the design. This includes a striking ventilated façade made from ceramic slats, utilizing passive natural lighting to create a feeling of spaciousness and comfort. These design elements pay direct homage to the city’s iconic architecture and design. In addition to architectural examples, the Sevilla Fashion Outlet extension will host a dedicated area showcasing and amplifying local Spanish and Andalusian brands—in turn bringing long-term impact to the city and boosting employment. Through this local emphasis, we create destinations that our guests return to again and again, while also benefiting the local community.”
What do you recommend / what are your hopes for the industry and market participants?
“We believe in making the most of unused and underutilized spaces, ensuring that they can benefit and strengthen the entire fabric of the estate. At VIA Outlets, our established pop-up concept provides brands with the opportunity to trail the outlet industry within a temporarily unused unit. In our portfolio, we currently see a new trend where the so-called digital native brands are willing to test their first ‘offline’ experience in an outlet environment. It is a win-win for all parties – we optimize our unused space, brands get exposure with a new clientele, and our guests can discover new brands that they normally do not see in outlets.”
Read more about expert opinions in our Online Special: “Industry Outlook 2023”.