External Visibility

Written by  //  March 10, 2011  //  Retail Design  //  No comments

In mixed use environments it is tempting to put the retail space in the middle of a site, to create a “town square”, or fronting on a public park or waterfront. There are two good reasons suburban shopping malls are almost always placed at the intersection of two major highways: visibility and access.

If you expect people from outside the immediate neighbourhood to shop at the site (and that’s a requirement if you want to build more than a convenience store), the retail needs to be obvious. Pick the corner which has the most vehicle exposure and place something which encapsulates the vision for the project / neighbourhood. This gateway piece sets the stage for the rest of the retail What impression do you want to leave?

Inwards oriented exclusivity – “window browsers are not welcome”
Outwards oriented openness – “spend time here and relax”

Draw Attention

The next challenge is to find creative ways to draw attention without being ostentatious. In suburbs without signage control, competing retailers use ever taller poles to mount their signs. Clearly this is not appropriate for an “urban” mixed use environment. Retro neon lights are making a big comeback – and if allowed by local regulations can be a great way to draw attention.

Double height stores are an excellent strategy to draw the eye, as well as to add density to retail floorspace. The difficulty lies in convincing retailers to accept a layout which doesn’t fit into their typical designs.

About the Author


Reurbanist is a multi-disciplinary firm that blends land use economics with urban planning and economic development. At its core, Reurbanist believes that great urban places that are compelling and vibrant must find success at both a fiscal and social level. Stronger cities and urban destinations translate into improved job growth, municipal tax revenue, and a higher quality of life for residents.

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