Place Making in New Retail Developments: The role of local, independently owned businesses

Laniado, L. L. C.

Laniado, L. L. C. (2005). Place Making in New Retail Developments: The role of local, independently owned businesses (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

This thesis sets out to examine whether incorporating local independent or small regional chain retailers and restaurants along with national chain stores in new large scale open-air retail developments can help add to a “sense of place” in these projects and thus make them more successful. New retail developments of the past two decades, often called Lifestyle Centers, Urban Entertainment Centers, Town Centers or New Main Streets, attempt through design to create a “place.” However, unlike traditional Main Streets or other locales that come to mind when thinking of distinctive “places” to shop, the tenants in these centers seem to be largely the same as those in regional malls—ubiquitous national chain stores. Due to this lack of local, unique content, these projects in many cases seem to be more a repackaging of the regional mall formula than truly successful attempts at place making. However, despite several challenges to tenanting independent businesses, some owners of new, what I refer to as, Place Making Centers have nonetheless taken a more proactive role in varying their tenant mix so as to better differentiate and reflect the local character of these projects; consciously dedicating a substantial percentage of their retail space for smaller local or regional retailers. This suggests that for some developers and projects these obstacles can be overcome, and that there is some perceived added value, place making or otherwise, to incorporating these businesses. In this thesis, I argue that place making, besides a physical act, also involves an intangible social and cognitive quality. I also assert that independent business can contribute to sense of place by contributing spaces more likely to promote social interaction and adapt over time and by providing a sense of uniqueness, rootedness and authenticity. Furthermore, the characteristics that contribute to the likelihood and/or viability of incorporating independent businesses in a project fall into three categories—owner characteristics, project financing and economics, and market characteristics. In projects that successfully overcome these obstacles, independent businesses are shown to further place making’s aim of overall and long-term value creation, suggesting that incorporation of these retailers should be strongly considered by developers of new retail formats.

Main finding
Independent retailers add to a sense of place and contribute to the success of public spaces.

Description of method used in the article

Of practical use

Organising categories