by Daniel Straub, ASLA, Daniel Ashworth, Jr., PLA, ASLA, AICP, and Lauren Patterson, PLA, ASLA
This is the third article in the Urban Design Professional Practice Network (UD PPN)’s series on the evolution of the suburban retail environment. As described in the first article, the retail environment is undergoing significant changes that have resulted in a “paradigm shift” from traditional suburban shopping centers to an age of electronic marketing that supports smaller scale, but amenity-rich, village centers and streetscape environments. The article also discussed how suburban retail has gone through various cycles of development—from traditional main street retail to suburban malls, to the abandonment of retail centers, and to redeveloped village centers. The constant churn of the American economy and ever-changing technology has transformed user preferences, which has had a massive impact.
The second article in the series highlighted several projects that are in very different stages of redevelopment. The projects help to explain how different suburban retail centers have been evolving over the past decade to address the changes in electronic retail preferences.
In addition to the past decades of change associated with patterns of development, we have also witnessed changes to society caused by the recent pandemic that encouraged outdoor activity, walkability, and access to natural resources and quality open spaces. All the noted changes have highlighted the need for quality designed places and the need for “third spaces” for public gatherings. Along with the recent lifestyle preferences, they have fast-tracked the paradigm shift in the retail environment that has caused a significant and reverberating change in all sectors of the metropolitan urban pattern.
This article attempts to build upon the foundation of those previous installments to discuss some lessons learned and some basic principles for successful place-making and urban design going forward in a changing world.