Joint SPR/Cambridge University Land Society Seminar
Savills, 33 Margaret Street, London, W1, 13 June 2019

A Place for Retail

This joint SPR/CULS seminar entitled Placemaking - Unlocking the Value of Retail showed that although UK retail real estate may currently be making headlines for negative reasons, the sector can still have a highly important role to play in making places work and for the surrounding environment, occupiers and other real estate interests.

Opening the seminar, Seb Golding presented research by Savills that showed a positive relationship between residential values and the nearby retail/leisure offer in local neighbourhoods across London. Interestingly, this relationship appeared to be stronger for districts closer to the centre of town.

The other speakers explored some illuminating examples of how these benefits could be created in development placemaking.   Katy Ghahremani of Make Architects explained how the retail element of their mixed use scheme at Rathbone Place, just north of Oxford Street, is much more about providing ‘halo value’ for the whole project than generating revenue in its own right.


Roger Madelin, Head of Canada Water Development at British Land, emphasised that retail could itself benefit from a holistic idea of place.  Canada Water aims to build on the basis of the existing Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, which dates from the 1980s, to create an urban destination in its own right around the theme of water in all its forms.  Madelin also drew on his experience in developing Kings Cross in his previous role at Argent, stressing that the retail component, particularly within St Pancras Station, has played a major role in making this a successful business and residential location.

Jorge Beroiz, CallisonRTKL proposed that ‘place’ needs to have a cultural as well as a commercial rationale in order to entice people to visit and make them stay.  Presenting example of a scheme in Virginia, he noted how the development vision is evolving from shopping centres to mixed use and on towards ‘related use,’ where the synergies between different activities are seen as integral to the project.

In the panel discussion that followed, moderated by Lucy Greenwood of Savills, it was recognised that placemaking is not an exact science.  The time taken by the planning process often means that a vision can take years to put in place, while the speed of technological advance demands a high level of flexibility in the potential uses of any development.


Tim Horsey