Retail Vibrancy in Urban Areas

One of the most prominent features of an active urban community is a robust street life.  Activity tends to cluster in areas where the function of establishments is obvious from the street to passers-by.  A critical mass then becomes evident as numerous related businesses locate close enough to each other that there is a visual connection.  For example, those patronizing a restaurant may see or pass by similar establishments on the way in the door, sparking interest in adding yet another little café to their leisure time repertoire.

Even in urban cores where public transportation is present, there is always a threat to this vitality– the “dead zones” created by parking.  This issue has been in the news of late as Dunnhumby USA has been constructing its new corporate headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.  The design takes great pains to remove parking from the sidewalk level, hiding it above and below grade in the block long edifice, to create a level of street retail and restaurant space.

Childress & Cunningham has mastered these challenges with the Oakley Retail development that sits at the edge of the Oakley business district.  It is a multi-building complex of small-scale shops and office spaces that was originally planned by another architect to be like a strip mall. Instead, Childress & Cunningham responded to the scale and character of the neighborhood, hiding the parking behind the new construction, with access being an unobtrusive, tree-lined alley.

The new design created a streetscape vibrancy that more appropriately engages passers-by.  The best part of this designed pedestrian engagement for the investor group is that the Oakley Retail development was near 100% tenant occupied at construction completion!  Another “dead zone” averted, thanks to Childress & Cunningham!

Robert Haldi
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