Multifunctional Centres: a sustainable role for town and city centres

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By Rept0n1x – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7475787

by Dr Steve Millington, Nikos Ntounis, Prof Cathy Parker and Simon Quin

Executive summary [You can download the full report from the IPM site]

Whilst omni-channel retailing and the digital high street may be two of the latest talking points in the retail property industry, our towns and city centres have always been shape by a series of technological, social and political revolutions. The purpose of this report is to examine how, after many years of mono-functionality focused upon retailing, our centres are experiencing something of a renaissance, and remerging as multi-functional ones, supporting leisure and recreation, employment, tourism, heritage, culture, housing, employment, education, health and wellbeing, as well as retail.

A multi-functional centre means a diverse offer, and, therefore, traditional economic indicators will not, on their own, act as a sensible yardstick of performance or tool for decision-making. For the multi-functional centre, activity levels are the key performance indicators. How much is the centre used, when and for what? Multi-functional centres draw people in for a much wider ‘bundle of benefits’ than just shopping. This requires all stakeholders to work together much more effectively to deliver a better collective experience in locations, so they serve the commuter who may want to choose and collect at different times of the day, depending on their personal transport options and shift patterns, or the carer who may want to combine exercise and top-up shopping near to reliable respite care.

Many of the newfound uses for underused or redundant retail space have resulted from structural changes in the retail sector, as well as from a more tightly-gripped public purse. This has opened up the possibility for much more community involvement in the redevelopment and reuse of space. Sometimes this influx of creativity is only temporary, but it still demonstrates what an important asset an engaged community can be to a place, and what a difference it can make to vitality and viability. We think the retail property sector and those managing town and city centres should work harder to integrate more local entrepreneurship and civic practice into both new development and the management of existing centres. The successful multi-functional centre will have both a multitude of users as well as a multitude of caretakers. Most of all, our report argues that all retail developments (both new and existing) have to integrate more effectively into the overall offer of the multi-functional centre. Decision making and management must become less hierarchical and myopic and more place-based and ‘porous’ to allow more intelligence and input from the location.


[You can download the full report from the IPM site]

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