Principles of urban retail planning and development
In his new book, urban planner Robert Gibbs considers the challenges and opportunities associated with designing a more sustainable retail-scape.
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For as long as I’ve known him, which is about 15 years, Bob Gibbs has had one foot in New Urbanism and the other in the realm of mainstream retail calculations. His aim has been to help urbanists develop stores, restaurants, and centers that will thrive despite retailing’s generally high failure rate.
New urbanist planners are skilled at envisioning lovely, sociable retail settings; the president of Gibbs Planning Group in Birmingham, Michigan, wants to make sure the designs pay close attention to economic reality and consumer behavior. “The retail and shopping center sector is the riskiest of all principal real estate sectors,” he warns in this 243-page book, which distills what he’s learned from advising developers and designers around the world.
In a preface, Yaromir Steiner, founder and CEO of Steiner + Associates, which developed Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, argues that too much of the new urbanist approach has been “based on romantic and outdated notions of retail” — including “retail concepts that do not exist, store sizes that are not feasible, and commercial and mixed-use centers that lack critical mass.”
Gibbs, who has consulted on more than 500 public and private town centers, is experienced in avoiding such pitfalls.