Anatomy of a successful high street shopping centre

Colin Jones, Qutaiba Al-Shaheen & Neil Dunse

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Jones, C. , Al-Shaheen, Q. & Dunse, N. (1). Anatomy of a successful high street shopping centre. Journal of Urban Design, 21(4), 495–511.

High street shopping centres are at the core of cities. The continuing design challenge is to adapt a built environment inheritance to meet the present commercial needs of retailers, maximize the potential of the physical environment and address the social amenities that are expected from a city/town centre public realm. This paper addresses the question of what makes a successful high street shopping centre and seeks to understand the relationship between property values, location, physical characteristics, diversity of retailing and use, and social vitality in two successful city centre retailing environments. The research also demonstrates the blurring between commercial and public space, and supports Carmona’s argument that successful social space also creates economic value.

Main finding
The paper triangulates different dimensions of retailing centres based on the economic benefits of clustering (reflected in rents), centrality (measured using space syntax) and the use of the public realm. The successful high street shopping centre formula is a retail area which integrates accessible locations with an attractive public domain in terms of streetscape offering character and individuality nurtured by planning decisions and public investment/management of the public realm. Retail diversity and independent traders are not found to be critical in the UK but a supporting contribution to the vitality of a high street shopping centre. The research found lesser concern with the retail offering, but a focus on the locational relationships and the interaction with the social and physical environment of the public spaces.

Description of method used in the article
Using space syntax, the streets were scored for 1) accessibility for through movement; 2) local Integration; and 3) connectivity. Behavior mapping included seasonal and weekly observations of stationary activities. The level of environmental quality and the quality of building frontage were observed and evaluated at eye level derived from a six-point grade criteria.

Of practical use

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