It is crucial that new town centres are formed and become a social hub where residents, often distanced from their extended families and networks by their move out, can still thrive in an all-encompassing work, rest and play environment.
There a few things in life more tedious than spending Saturday morning trapped in a car.
Parents will well understand the stress of ferrying children between sports games whilst also trying to make it to Medicare or the post office, yet also have enough time to grab a present for a birthday party that afternoon. Short of outsourcing the children to Uber, the only true solution can be the well-planned local shopping centre.
With demand for greenfield mixed use town centres on the rise developers, more than ever before, must actually deliver on their promise of creating a community. This includes providing a thriving town centre by crafting the correct mix of services, food, retail and entertainment.
Housing affordability is seeing people move further away from the city centre and out onto the rural fringes of our major capitals. Melbourne for example, often held up as the more-affordable sister to Sydney, last year reported only 23 postcodes still offering affordable median house prices. Most of these suburbs are at least 20 kilometres from the CBD, naturally pushing first home-buyers and young families out to newly established suburbs.
Within these areas, it is crucial that new town centres are formed and become a social hub where residents, often distanced from their extended families and networks by their move out, can still thrive in an all encompassing work, rest and play environment.
The onus on developers and leasing managers is to provide a retail environment that encourages social interaction as a genuine and desired alternative to insular Internet browsing, creating true feelings of connection and overall community cohesion. To achieve this, town centres must possess a variety of offerings including services, entertainment and dining in addition to a whole, fresh foods experience.
Importantly, these spaces should feel small enough to be familiar and easy to navigate but large enough to still excite. Each centre should reflect its surrounding community, creating memorable places that break the mould of cookie-cutter centres often delivering more of the same without addressing the needs and desires of these rapidly growing new communities.
Clever industry players will consider financial, medical and Government services in the forms of council service centres, childcare, gyms and well being centres. Educational experiences will increase and even places of worship should be options to best service the needs of nearby residents and wider catchment area.
The retail mix of tomorrows town centre will focus on something we like to call the ’social dollar’. This currency focuses on well being and social interaction by creating spaces that people can create memories in. It’s the ease of popping in to pick up the ingredients for evening meal that’s over and done so quickly there’s time for a frozen yoghurt in a welcoming outdoor setting. In our increasingly busy world these brief moments shouldn’t be underestimated in creating lasting memories and ongoing friendships.
Overall, less focus will be given to the fashion dollar, as the offering most susceptible to online competition. Complementing obvious social enablers such as cinemas, entertainment hubs, restaurants and bars, modern centres will need a fusion of localisation and sustainability into their offering. Consideration should also be given to ready to go, flexible retail spaces that allow for short term on trend pop up offers that generate spikes in footfall.
Ultimately, great businesses embrace things that aid and enhance human connection. In my mind, there’s no greater opportunity for those in our industry, than a town centre to fuse convenience and connection to help build a sense of community.