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Success in placemaking always requires a bespoke approach


The Activate – Workman Placemaking team creates commercially viable solutions that add real value to communities, landlords and retailers

Placemaking success at Birmingham Business Park
Placemaking success at Birmingham Business Park

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Repurposing void retail space is vital in today’s challenging retail climate. Nearly 12% of the UK’s retail sites were unoccupied in the first half of this year, according to research by the Local Data Company. Despite this gloomy statistic, this is an exciting opportunity for independent retail and leisure operators that can provide a point of difference to outmoded chain stores.


In response, Activate – Workman Placemaking has been launched, bringing together an experienced team of retail and mixed-use development consultants to integrate with Workman’s established property management and building consultancy services.


Activate is already engaged on several projects across Workman’s portfolio of managed properties and for new clients. We help clients to meet specific asset management objectives, including maximising occupancy levels, supporting occupier retention, increasing footfall, strengthening connections with the local community, and devising meanwhile use interventions. These are often key when changing perceptions and testing new commercial opportunities.


Talking about the service provided, Andrew Sparrow, director at Activate, says: “Placemaking is widely acknowledged as an important element when creating a commercially viable place, whether that be an office, business park or retail location. By putting the users at the centre of the planning, design and management of a space, it strengthens their connections with the place and therefore its value.”


One new client which has benefited from our experience is St Helens Council. Like an increasing number of local authorities, the council had purchased several properties in the town centre and wanted support and advice on the development and delivery of a regeneration strategy, including options for the future of St Mary’s Market.


The first step in the project was to understand the views of local residents, stakeholders and market tenants regarding future market provision, leading to an evaluation of the alternative options. We have since followed this with a deeper analysis of the costs and forecast income associated with relocating the market into a void unit in the town.


“By putting the users at the centre of the planning, design and management of a space, it strengthens their connections with the place and therefore its value”


Working with building consultancy colleagues, Activate has created a new vision for the market that combines independent retail with a food and beverage hub, providing an important business incubator for local entrepreneurs.


Benefiting from more prominent frontage and improved access links, the market will also help to revitalise the town centre, and positively affect surrounding local businesses.


We will continue working with St Helens Council over the coming months, with ongoing detailed business planning, regular tenant consultation and operational support.


In addition to the high street, this approach has proven successful when applied to office environments, where the effectiveness of placemaking initiatives to engage office and business park users can be vitally important for companies in attracting talent and for landlords in ensuring that occupiers stay.


Success in placemaking, whether with the high street or the business park, always requires a tailored, bespoke approach, helping us to understand the customers’ and occupiers’ requirements and how they interact with the space.


Find out more

Visit, follow us on Instagram @activateplaces or contact the team on 020 7227 6200




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