Creating better cities by
improving the value of the public realm

Articles

Why are streets better than malls?

charleston retail3 car goneIn town centre planning and design,  retail stores addressing and fronting streets inspire a greater level of economic activity. Active streets deliver an extended rental range and a greater variety of businesses than malls. When streets are defined by robust buildings the town has the ability to adapt and change over time.

Studies undertaken by Urbacity show that when retail activates streets, employment levels increase by between 2 and 5 times that of a mall with a much wider spread by employment category.

The reason for diverse economic activity is because active streets or good urban environments are attractive to business. Malls are closed systems and do not act as catalysts to wider economic activity. The studies showed that retail in streets generated 2.5 non retail employees for every retail employee, whereas malls generated 0.5 non retail employees for every retail employee.

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How do we engage the developer in the centres debate?

Building1Most developers are conservative and are unlikely to challenge the tried and true retail only formula. Often they will break the mould if in a competitive bid situation (as they did at Gungahlin), however this is rare. Developers will make more development profit from a mall, so if you want a town or village and not a mall, you need to regulate so that they develop a centre (town or village).

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How do you grow and make robust a village, town or city?

nb edgesred

Town centre planning and design is about understanding the local dynamics that drive the performance of a centre. Robustness has to do with energy (the type, volume, capacity and behaviour of movement systems and their catchment dynamics), land use distribution and built form.

The drawing indicates a coding method we routinely use to determine why the range of edge conditions in a town centre behave the way they do and consequently what you can do to change them.

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What does a TOD mean for centre planning?

metro todredThis depends entirely on the dynamics of the TOD and the wider environment. In some cases the TOD will be based on heavy rail and some on light rail. Most TOD based projects in Australia are heavy rail projects.

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Why are hamlets, villages, towns and cities more important than malls?

Europe2-180french-sq-alpsUrbacity’s research shows that hamlets, villages, towns and cities generate a wider spectrum of activity and greater levels of employment than malls, even when the retail floorspace is the same. Employment in traditional centres delivers between 2 and 5 times more non retail employment as that of malls and their immediate environs. Town centre planning should seek integrated urban environments with the public realm interface as the focus.

Public spaces or public realm within centres are at the foundation of civil society. When buildings work together and secure public space they inspire higher levels of economic and social activity. If architecture is representative of place, we are able to interpret local culture and personality. Town centre planning is largely about the quality of the public realm.

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