The importance of community spaces

In recent times, we’ve seen a rapid evolution of our town centres and malls, as they morph into more than pure retail and leisure destinations.

Successful places need to provide a greater range of uses to meet the wants and demands of the modern day consumer who not only seek to enjoy the physical experience of shopping, coupled with leisure and entertainment experiences, they also need other reasons to visit and return. 

Integral to satisfying this appetite is creating engaging public spaces, where people can relax, socialise, and spend more time – areas that add to their overall experience of the heart of the town, or inside and outside the shopping centres.

This art of placemaking is about transforming these destinations into environments that locals and visitors not only want to visit but spend longer there and return to regularly. It’s about reimagining space and creating a much more attractive destination.

Community spaces also play a crucial role in enhancing the vitality and success of our centres. They can provide a vibrant platform for people to interact and engage with each other, fostering a sense of belonging and community within the centre.

Regular events and activities can be held in these dedicated areas, allowing owners to curate experiences to help drive footfall, increase dwell time and encourage those to spend more, benefitting other tenants in the centre.

GCW are broadly invested in projects which drive placemaking strategy, researching, influencing, and championing opportunity to enhance town centres. The success of such ideas is propelled by the strength of the centre and their respective property managers. 

In Windsor, where GCW act on behalf of AEW on Windsor Yards and Windsor Royal Station, both centres offer a regular programme of events for the community, that has included an openair cinema, artisan markets, musical performances and concerts, charitable events, and Royal events such as the King Charles III Coronation. 

At Sheffield’s Orchard Square, a long standing GCW leasing project, the owner London & Associated Properties, has recently completed transformational public realm works. Capitalising from a Future High Streets Funding Grant, improvements include new paving and canopies covering the central courtyard to ensure events can be held throughout the year, such as performances and markets. 

This was the final strategic piece in the repositioning of the centre to compliment the wider mix of uses, particularly the F&B and leisure, broadening its appeal as an all day and nighttime destination.

The flexibility and adaptability of these spaces can help centres remain relevant and appealing to changing consumer preferences.

Ultimately, community spaces showcase and support local businesses, entrepreneurs, and artisans, that not only boosts the near-by economy but also creates a unique shopping experience.

It would be a mistake to label these areas as just a complement to retail centres. They are a vital component that contributes to their success and sustainability. By creating a dynamic and inclusive environment, retail centres can attract a diverse audience in terms of shoppers and occupiers.

They can also strengthen community ties and help centres to thrive in a competitive market.