Placemaking has long been the buzzword of the real estate world but, aside from the anecdotal benefits, it has often been hard to measure the tangible advantages. Until now.

Zoe Bignell

Looking at 11 global placemaking initiatives in the UK, Australia, the US, Italy, Denmark, Germany, France and South Korea, CBRE together with Gehl Architects examined the ways in which public spaces contribute to the human experience of urban areas and create long-term real estate value, both before and after the public realm intervention has taken place.

In London, Granary Square in King’s Cross formed part of the study. The results in this location are of particular interest, with the standout performers being retail and residential.

While average house prices in prime central London rose by 48% between 2011 and 2016, average prices in King’s Cross have increased by 61%. There has also been a marked improvement in retail quality with strong brands attracted to the location.

Granary Square Kings Cross

Granary Square in King’s Cross is a key example of public space

The report concludes that this is a function of the quality of the public realm adding to the human experience, combined with the fact it offers both good connectivity and a community feel. Without the introduction of high-quality design of the public realm, this vast new area of development would struggle, or at least would not be as successful, in establishing a reputation in the market as a desirable location.

It is no coincidence that good placemaking can, in turn, realise positive incremental effects on real estate values. As a business, we recognise the importance of taking a holistic approach to identifying, creating and delivering development opportunities and how this can drive demand and create value longevity.

Creativity is key

This is a combination of evolving innovative occupational solutions internally as much as enhancing the experience through complementary amenities, wellbeing and placemaking.

Creativity is key. For planners, it means designing for an enhanced human experience of urban areas. This means maintaining any good-quality public space that exists through using innovative and up-to-date measures and embarking on a mission to make more of it available. It also means that proposed new developments should be judged on their ability to enhance public life alongside any employment, housing and infrastructure benefits.

For developers and investors, value resilience depends on the success of the place. Not all developments will have the ability to create an outdoor public realm that is free to use, but some will. Where there is opportunity to enhance the brand of a building and location using well-designed public realm, it should be taken.

Zoe Bignell is managing director, UK development, at CBRE