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Placemaking: These Landlords Have Transformed Mere Shopping Centers Into Destination Centers

If there's one thing landlords today  are aiming to perfect during this time of turmoil for brick-and-mortar retail, it's the concept of "placemaking." For those unfamiliar with the term, simply put, placemaking is a strategic move used to boost foot traffic at a destination by making it compelling and creating reasons for shoppers to visit. 


Shopping center owners have pulled out the big guns when it comes to placemaking and are constantly reinventing new ideas to draw crowds to their centers, from changing the tenant mix to include entertainment and service-oriented retailers, to providing attractions like live concerts, partnering with local farmers markets and hosting weekly events that appeal to the community. 

"Placemaking is about creating destinations that draw people and inspire them to stay," CBRE head of retail research in the Americas Melina Cordero told Bisnow. "There is no blueprint for placemaking, and each of the projects...[has] established great retail destinations in a unique way, whether it’s through technology, sustainability, culture or design.”

Five Key Elements To Successful Placemaking


CBRE outlined five key elements needed to transform a shopping center to a destination and lifestyle center. 

Leisure: There must be ample room for visitors to sit, chill, eat and simply be. Offering attractions, such as restaurants, bars, cinemas and sports facilities, can add to a center's leisure appeal.

Technology: Full digital integration is imperative to a center's success today. Shoppers should be able to access retailers online, via social media, etc.—all those key elements that make omnichannel retail so successful.

Sustainability & Wellness: It's up to developers to ensure the destination is not harmful or unpleasant for shoppers, particularly Millennials who are very health-conscious and big on environmental safety. 

Vertical Retail: Unlike the past when retailers avoided being in tall, multilevel buildings, recent trends show this style of development is increasingly embraced, particularly in Asian markets. Plus, there are rewards for building skyward in those prime markets with very little available land.

Planning: This is key. The development of a place must be carefully planned over time, in hopes of avoiding unnecessary challenges. This is particularly important for those mixed-use developments that merge retail, office and residential together. 

Below are six shopping centers in North America where retail has played a big role in establishing a place, according to CBRE. 

Runway At Playa Vista, Los Angeles


A prime example of planning in placemaking, Invesco Real Estate's 221k SF mixed-use project began development in 2012. At first glance, the project appears to be a traditional lifestyle center at Playa Vista, but Runway includes 420 residential apartments and a 33k SF medical office designed around sustainability. CBRE sayss this project aims to foster a sense of community and to serve the neighborhood. 

Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco


San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square consists of 12 buildings that span 100k SF. The development contains a mix of historic buildings and new retail concepts in hopes of offering a diverse tenant experience for the community, which is 40% to 45% occupied by food and beverage tenants. Owned by Jamestown Development, the project was a Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in the 1800s. 

Pearl District, San Antonio

The Pearl District, San Antonio

The Pearl District spans 16 blocks over 23 acres. Talk about massive. The project merges residential and retail with a focus on leisure to appeal to customers. Formerly an abandoned warehouse, the project opened during the height of the financial crisis in 2009. Today the District is geared around restaurants, chef-driven themes and a distinct Mexican southwest culinary culture. 

Chelsea Market, New York City

Chelsea Market at 15th Street in Manhattan

New York City's Chelsea Market in Manhattan's Meatpacking District is a prime example of placemaking with a focus on leisure, according to CBRE. The former industrial space was converted to 1.2M SF of retail and office space and has been open since the late 1990s. Also owned by Jamestown, the company announced plans in May to renovate the project, adding 80k SF of retail space, nearly doubling its leasable space. 

Miami Design District, Miami


A luxury retail development still under development, Miami Design District is slated to complete in 2017 and will include 160 luxury retailers, a 119-room hotel and at least 15 restaurants. The project spans 18 blocks and is a classic example of planning in placemaking, according to CBRE. In addition to retail, art and design are two major themes, with developers focusing on high-end luxury tenants to appeal to Miami's 15 million-plus annual visitors. 

Distillery District, Toronto


Toronto's Distillery District is unique—it's a pedestrian-only commercial and residential village that spans 10 streets within 13 acres. The hub includes 40 heritage buildings, said to be the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. CBRE says the project is an ideal example of a "place to be experienced as a living entity and part of the contemporary urban environment."