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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.

In town centre planning and design not all parts of a street are or should be "hot" retail areas. Some streets “come and go” as they are not merely contrived retail merchandising devices. Streets are far less “efficient” in retail terms than malls, requiring greater effort and exercise to hunt and gather the same items. A consequence of a more eclectic environment is a wider diversity of activity and at a wide range of price points.

Streets encourage and promote entrepreneurship and incubator businesses. Malls do not.

Streets provide greater economic and social potential than malls and consistently deliver higher employment numbers and greater economic value than malls. Retail-only employment is at the lowest level of the economic endeavour pyramid. Yet streets activated by retail attract high value non retail businesses and entrepreneurship. Such opportunities are lost if the retail is locked in a box.