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The 3 Must-Haves That Are Part Of The Placemaking Equation


What if we built communities around public spaces? What if we chiseled neighborhoods into the city?

Each area would have its own soul, its own identity. That’s called placemaking and a panel at Bisnow’s Seattle 2020 Forecast discussed what it takes to transform a space into a place where people want to be. 

GGLO’s Don Vehige, Lake Union Partners’
 Joe Ferguson, Madison Marquette’s Daniel Meyers, barrientosRYAN’s Kristin Ryan and Abbott Construction’s Doug Klein

The first component of placemaking is finding the right retail, because retail anchors these places, and the right mix of retailers is critical, Madison Marquette Senior Vice President Daniel Meyers said.

“Really good retail is the catalyst,” he said. “Spaces have to have good environments where people want to be.”

Placemaking really comes down to how people connect with places, Abbott Construction Director Doug Klein said.

“We build that connection into a lot of our projects,” Klein said. “It’s how we feel when we’re in the space, it’s the restaurants, the entertainment. When you find those spaces that are really cool, you want to go back.”

Lake Union Partners principal Joe Ferguson said public places make up the soul and identity of the community.

“It’s the human connection piece,” he said. 

Developers need to consider how people move through that space and give thought to how people interact and get through, Meyers said. He refers to pathways, streets and connections to the sidewalk. At Pacific Place, Madison Marquette is creating a living room-type space surrounded by Amazon employees and new residences in Denny Triangle.

“There are a lot of reasons to be there,” he said. 

BarrientosRYAN partner Kristin Ryan told the audience it’s about merging and developing places to go and interact. She also stressed that retail is important. People should be able to buy anything they need right there. 

Each place has a different neighborhood with different interests, she said. Therefore, the spaces need to be differentiated as well. 

“You have to think about what retailer is important for the neighborhood based on where you are,” she said. “Bellevue, Downtown, Northgate are all different neighborhoods and they have different interests.”


Institutional Property Advisors’ Ray Allen, Rise Properties Trust’s Barrett Sigmund and Kinzer Partners’ Craig Kinzer

When selecting retailers for the space, think about the ones that have repeat visitors, Ferguson added. It’s wise to select anchor tenants that give customers a reason to come, such as a pharmacy. 

“Be intentional about how you look at the mix, and think about kids,” he said. He points out that spaces with venues attractive to younger kids will draw parents, teachers and even grandparents.

 “Now you have four touch points that are seeing your space for the first time and may have reasons to come back,” he said. “Think beyond the brick-and-mortar and bridge the gap into entertainment to keep the space activated.”