High Streets, they are a-changing – and so are the shopping centres and places we work
7 November 2019
We used to live in the suburbs, travel to work in offices, and go shopping on the high streets. Then came shopping centres, which changed the high streets. Then came online shopping, which changed the shopping centres. And then came food delivery, which is further changing the high street. Now iPads and WeWork are changing how and where we work. Today, technology is shaping how we live our lives – and property owners and governments are struggling to keep pace.
So what should we do with our high streets? They’re no longer places where you need to go to buy things. Now you can browse, click and collect, or have products delivered the next day. Saturdays were traditionally reserved for shopping, but nowadays many of us choose instead to go to brunch or watch sport.
Last Saturday at 100 Wardour Street, our restaurant and bar in Soho, we were as busy for brunch as we were for dinner on Friday night. Five years ago, we wouldn’t have even bothered opening on a Saturday during the day. High streets need to provide us with what we can’t readily get by a click on our iPads or our mobile phones: social activities; restaurants and bars to meet each other and chat over a meal or a drink; health clubs; cinemas, where you can watch movies as soon as they’re released; and theatres and concert venues, where you can be entertained live. The rise of Deliveroo and Uber Eats also means that restaurants can’t just be about food. They need to provide great service and atmosphere, otherwise customers will simply opt for delivery.
High streets should also allow people to live closer to where they work. The single biggest improvement to the quality of my own life has been having an apartment close to where I work and spend my evenings. I no longer have the daily commute – giving me an extra two hours each day to spend how I wish instead of being stuck on crowded trains or the Tube.
That’s why the future of high streets is mixed use ‑to evolve to serve the needs of people as they can and want to live today. The lines between residential, office and retail/entertainment areas are becoming blurred;he apartment where my wife Liz and I live today during the week is in the same building in which Liz worked during the 1990s.
Shopping centres, too, are changing. When the first shopping centres in the US and UK were built, 90% of the space was devoted to shopping and the balance to cafés and food courts – where shoppers could refuel after the main event:shopping.
Now shopping centres are devoting more and more space to restaurants, cafés, bars, artisanal food markets, cinemas, gyms, and spas. And property owners want more than just any old café and restaurant they can find on every other high street in the country. They want venues that differentiate their centres from others.
We have just opened a restaurant, bar and café in Hudson Yards, a large mixed-use property development on the West Side of Manhattan. Our venue is located within a retail centre that features a fabulous Spanish food market created by the visionary chef JoséAndrés and a $200-per-head restaurant created by multi-Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller. Both are bespoke concepts, created specifically for Hudson Yards – as is our own Queensyard restaurant. The Hudson Yards development also contains offices, residential towers, cultural venues, and the Vessel, a $200m visitor attraction created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick.
The future of shopping centres is not just about providing places to shop but also places to visit, to eat, and be entertained; shopping centres are increasingly closely integrated with offices, hotels, and apartments. They aspire to be communities and neighbourhoods.
How we now work
Twenty years ago I had an office; a decade ago I had a desk; nowadays I just have an iPad and hold all my meetings in our restaurants. I’m much closer to our business managers, staff and customers than I ever used to be.
WeWork and other co-working spaces reflect the way we can and wish to work, given how technology has developed. We at D&D recently launched a new business concept called Workroom to encourage the use of some of our restaurants and bars during mornings and afternoons (when we would otherwise be closed).
With the increased demand for housing, using surplus retail and office space – and generally utilising existing property more efficiently – is likely to be as effective a way of dealing with the challenge as building more and more homes. Most people live in one property, work in another during the day, and then seek entertainment in other properties in the evening. If the same property could be used not just for one but at least two of these uses every day, shortages of properties in cities would disappear.
Upcoming workshops in London First’s What’s in Store: Transforming Our High Streets roundtable series are: Fragmented ownership of town centres and the role of CPOs (27 November) and Licensing and a presumption in favour of commerce and activity (TBC). Please contact Sarah Bevan or Matthew Hill for further information.
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