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Town Centers: Their Conditions to Success, Economic Opportunity, and Preferences toward Inviting, Walkable Places, Economic Development Division
July 20, 2012 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
The success of several town center developments during the late 1990’s/early 2000’s dispelled conventional wisdom regarding the superiority of enclosed suburban shopping malls, demonstrating in economically measurable ways a preference by many toward open-air, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented places with attractive public space. What followed was a frenzy of town center and lifestyle center development—including well-conceived projects and poorly-conceived ones—that thrived, met expectations, or failed. Dismissed by some as artificial urban replicas, successful town centers nevertheless serve as value-adding catalysts for other land uses, such as office and hotel, and provide a model for a better-integration of uses than is found at conventional shopping centers and office parks. While typically found at suburban interchange locations, town centers offer valuable lessons for existing retail districts; further, town centers have, in some instances, been successfully integrated into urban environments. This session highlights many of the conditions (with emphasis on market analysis and urban design) that lead to viable town centers, primarily through case study of town centers across the country. Case studies of public/private partnerships will also be provided. The success of the town center strategy, which focuses on the creation of great places to create value premiums, has broad implications for planning, since it has provided market validation of a number of planning and urban design principles. That these successes have occurred, often in the absence of regional policies that support placemaking, could point to a broader cultural shift and future support for place-friendly policies.