Placemaking – Reaping the rewards

Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay may be one of the city’s most polluted neighbourhoods, but the worms living on the 38th storey of iconic Hysan Place skyscraper shows this is a building aiming for a new vibe amid the smog.

The worms are part of an urban rooftop farm at the award winning mixed-use building – a 5,000 sq. ft. community green space that reflects what its developer terms an “unfailing commitment to promoting sustainability and a balanced lifestyle”.

The farm is part of Hysan Place’s multi-dimensional offer, aimed at tenants and community alike. On top of an average of around 80,000 visitors in the mall each day, you’ll find school kids using the farm for education alongside office workers harvesting veg. Elsewhere, publicly accessible roof gardens, a wetland and urban stage for events all provide compelling reasons to dwell.

Hysan Development Company’s efforts are curious given that Causeway Bay commands the world’s highest retail rents. With luxury brands willing to pay $3,000 per square foot, it could be argued that landlords hardly need to make any effort to draw punters.

In short, Hysan believes great development is about making successful places. And it is not alone. Emerging Trends in European Real Estate 2014 identified placemaking as one of the biggest themes for the post-crisis era.

Its findings build on global interest in how good places contribute to health, productivity and consumer activity. A UK government report published last year concluded a “pleasing local environment” reaps economic rewards – with green initiatives boosting local business investment, attracting retailers and millions in extra spending. While the U.S government recently estimated that street trees add $52m in increased property values annually.

But the placemaking agenda is being driven by a desire to make spaces more relevant. In the internet-age, where the purchase of a new outfit and a working day can be managed remotely, developers must create buildings for a new kind of user.

UK developer Argent is taking a similar approach at a major regeneration project King’s Cross - which includes 26 acres of public space, 3.4m sq. ft. of offices, 500,000 sq. ft. of retail and 2,000 new homes. But it’s also to become home for a new UK headquarters of Google, perhaps one of the most desirable commercial occupiers around.

It’s no coincidence that Google wants to position itself at King’s Cross. In its hunt for space, the online search group wanted an environment that encouraged “casual collisions of the workforce”. And the new neighbourhood offers Google’s 4,500 employees access to a street food thoroughfare, canal-side hangouts and choreographed water fountains. Pop-up cafes and outdoor sports area are also part of the mix.

Robert Evans, partner, Argent, says: “Developers have caught onto the fact that good places are complex in their tone, character and feel – and give people a multitude of reasons to linger.” It is all these elements, he argues, that give a scheme the ability to attract the best occupiers from the outset.

Placemaking innovations don’t have to be complex. The use of natural elements like daylight, water and vegetation are simple but effective, says Evans. While investing attention in the right kind of details is also key.

Click here to read the full article