As a developer, you’re familiar with the constraints of building in dense urban areas. The high cost of land means new developments must maximize the building footprint, leaving minimal room for outdoor space at ground level. These conditions can lead to two very different results: 1) a poorly planned, vacant, and grim concrete jungle or 2) an active and vibrant network of exciting street life.
Urban rooftop outdoor amenity spaces are becoming the gold standard for new residential and office buildings downtown. But few developers are tapping into the significant cultural and economic trends propelling another type of urban lifestyle icon: the streetscape amenity.
Streetscape amenities are features in the public right of way that encourage civic and economic activity on the street. Additionally, public amenities at the street level provide opportunities for various modes of travel and enhance the identity of a community.
Urban residents are increasingly placing higher value on community identity and connectivity. A savvy developer will find that streetscape amenities provide a unique way to brand and market a property. In addition, the happy tenants reap the economic, social, and health benefits of a lively street.
Plan on these amenities for lively streets:
Providing public seating at street level fosters social interaction. It offers the opportunity to gather together rather than just move through a space. Public seating can be branded to contribute to the identity of a private development or can be part of a plan to brand an entire neighborhood.
Quality site furniture activates the street and contributes to a safer urban environment. Even just the presence of such furniture indicates activity and ownership. This suggests that the area is cared for and used by people.
Public seating also increases property value by attracting people and demonstrating value. It can be a huge asset in attracting ground-floor retail and restaurant tenants.
dwg.’s Caffe Aragona pocket patio in Austin, Texas is a great example of public seating that adds value to the adjacent property.
Accommodation of Multiple Modes of Transportation
It’s no secret that people who regularly walk, run, or bike live longer, lose weight, and have reduced risk of chronic disease. There are well-documented, proven mental health benefits as well. The return on investment for providing opportunities to walk and bike in the city, however, is less emphasized.
Making it easy to walk or bike along a particular street frontage boosts the economic activity of that street. This makes the street universally accessible, builds inclusiveness, and bridges potential barriers throughout the city. The more accessible your property is, the more people will be able to get there. This contributes to much higher returns.
The more people who walk and bike, the better it is for the environment. As people drive less there is less noise and pollution. This makes a city or neighborhood more livable and more attractive to people.
Developers can and should push for more transportation options to and from their project location. Doing so will connect them to a wider network of potential tenants and customers.
Trees are the most common streetscape amenity. They add shade, greenery, and have been known to reduce urban heat island temperatures by up to 35 degrees.
While it’s hard to imagine an active city street without trees, don’t assume that it’s enough to plant the bare minimum requirement. To have the greatest impact, make sure you select the right species and the correct maintenance plan for your location. Street level trees need to have good structure and grow as large as possible to fill the space.
La Rambla, the famous street in Barcelona, Spain, features the kinds of trees that make an iconic public space. Having worked to improve its public spaces since the 1980’s, Barcelona has seen its annual number of visitors increase by 335%.
Outdoor lighting supplies another opportunity to go beyond the status quo. Rather than just meeting minimum requirements for safety, use outdoor lighting to create atmosphere.
A few well-placed quality fixtures will elevate your property by giving it a new level of elegance. People are invariably drawn to uniquely-lit outdoor spaces at night where they can sense excitement and activity.
Streetscape lighting extends the time people can spend outdoors and is essential to city night life. With creative outdoor lighting you can increase the amount of time and money spent at commercial properties.
Streetscapes are an outstanding location for large-scale art. Art can inspire, brand, and drive engagement at street level.
Locations with street art are some of the most photographed sites in each city. Murals and street art are visited by tourists and locals alike. Properties that incorporate art as a streetscape amenity experience increased interaction and become associated with the culture of the neighborhood and city. They become beloved locations with strong memories.
Streetscape Amenities: The Bottom Line
Streetscape amenities offer an under-utilized opportunity to attract tenants and increase value for urban developments. Make the most of public space and help your projects become integral parts of the city.