ULI Washington News

2014 Trends: Placemaking for the New Demographic

By Matthew Blocher

Keith O’Conner, Principal, James Corner Field Operations

Harriet Tregoning, Director, HUD Office of Economic Resilience
Kaid Benfield, Special Counsel for Urban Solutions, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Deborah Ratner Salzberg, President, Forest City Washington, Inc.

This session examined a variety of questions about how lifestyle changes are impacting design and use of public spaces.  From pop-up places to the repurposing of land to create new spaces – there are definite trends in creating new and exciting gathering places.  Changing demographic and consumer preferences are affecting the types of amenities that are desirable.  A panel of thought leaders explored what makes a great place today and the changes in habits and behavior that are driving the design of new places.

Highlights of this very engaging discussion centered on a number of points:

The Shared Economy

  • A overview of the trend of ‘more for less’, which is a great way to benefit from something without owning it (car shares, bike shares, ride shares, parking shares, etc.)
  • The way in which we use many spaces, including public spaces and office space, is rapidly changing as evidenced from trends in both areas
  • Attributes of Successful Public Spaces
  • The role of public spaces is broad
  • Successful public spaces create a true ‘melting pot’
  • The vision for many public spaces started with the public sector
  • Public spaces should be well distributed throughout a site
  • Public spaces should allow for the users an ability to ‘escape’ and an ability to connect with one another
  • Nature needs to be incorporated into the hardscape of a public space
  • Public spaces complimented by retail create extraordinary experiences
  • Accessibility & Transportation
  • With numerous transportation options, shifts in urban transportation for DC residents continue
  • In DC, cars are not in use/parked 98% of the time (the national average is 95%)
  • As a result of the infrequency of use of cars, many opportunities should be considered – further reduction in parking requirements, dedicated mass transit, additional bike lanes, etc.

 Greatest Prospects for Innovation

  • Exploring and examining obsolete infrastructure, which is part of the collective memory and framework of an existing place (i.e. DC’s 11th Street Bridge project)
  • A continued focus on sustainability and maintenance of public spaces
  • Technology will continue to play a major role in the development of successful placemaking destinations
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