New Zealand Commercial Design Trends Series NZ Commercial Design Trends Vol. 30/10A - Page 90

SECTOR REPORT URBAN SPACES SPACE ECONOMICS Understanding the economic potential of good landscape design in the public realm is critical to urban development, says Michael Hawes of Boffa Miskell The words public space and public realm are often interchanged, although in truth they are not exactly the same. When we think of public space, we tend to imagine parks and plazas, waterfronts and markets, but not the in-between spaces – the streets, laneways, terraces, courtyards, views and even car parks – that link up the larger spaces connecting our cities. This entirety of outdoor spaces is the public realm, and although the specifics vary, creating this congenial shared precinct is what has shaped human settlements since the first cities were built. The range of opportunities the public realm offers for achieving value is as diverse as its context, landscape and community. Much of this added value, environmental or community-based, is visible and relatively easy to evaluate. Less so is the economic value added to projects through good landscape and public realm design. This is evident in public commentary on public 88 search | save | share at space projects. This normally speaks to the more subjective ‘beautification’ aspects of public realm upgrades or public space improvements associated with commerci al projects, because this is the easier-to-evaluate outcome of the project. These beautification aspects will contribute to the popularity and identity of a project; initially adding value indirectly to the associated commercial offerings via increased customer footfall. However they are probably the most easily achieved aspects and can be the quickest to date. This may be fine for quick wins or highly managed and constantly evolving urban environments with the luxury of long-term single leadership and ownership. But such an approach is not ‘structural’ or sustainable urban transformation in the long term. This needs to be able to support a range of known and future businesses without periodic reinvention. Achieving greater economic potential from our urban infrastructure is a key outcome in supporting Above:Boffa Miskell associate director Michael Hawes discusses how good landscape design can contribute to the ongoing economic success of an urban precinct. Below left:The Federal Street upgrade by Boffa Miskell provides a lively shared space precinct, whereby vehicles and pedestrians share the laneway. Below and right:The Fort Street and Fort Lane upgrades in the Auckland CBD have also stimulated the area – Auckland Council says there has been a 47% increase in consumer spending, with a massive 429% increase in hospitality spending. Photography on these pages by Claire Hamilton