If nothing else, 2022 has confirmed the desire for people to be reunited in both professional and personal relationships. We are reminded that we are social beings. We should be excited at the opportunity this creates to design and build places that offer meaningful engagement between people. We must bear in mind that our attention span is decreasing, especially when blended with our use of technology and social media. To ensure that we remain connected to a place, as many of our senses as possible need to be engaged. That way we become connected with what that destination offers. The greatest opportunities we should focus on are those that provide an Educational, as well as an Experiential component to them. Both these “E’s” are the foundational pieces on which to build real value. Young or old, in general, we want to learn, discover, and experience something new.
Creating spaces for people
One example is immersive entertainment shows growing steadily around the world. While these experiences can focus on the appreciation of art, amongst other things, they also lend themselves to the education and experiential aspects of placemaking. Another example would be food concepts offering cooking classes. This is a great experience for groups. With the growth of the food and beverage sector over the past years, it should be easy to re-engage the consumer in an activity that he or she may have taken up during the pandemic while working from home, which is cooking. If there are opportunities, there are obvious challenges. The main one is creating something economically viable and sustainable, able to be refreshed. The use of space for people to gather needs to have, directly, or as a by-product, a means by which revenue can be generated, from a retail real estate standpoint. If, however, the idea is to create spaces where people can simply gather and enjoy each other’s company, that is noble, but how does it tie into the shopping center itself or into making the city more vibrant?
As an industry, we need to ask the right questions about what works in that community and understand why. We can then assess if a particular strategy suits our project.
Read more about expert opinions in our Online Special: “Industry Outlook 2023”.