Sizing Open Spaces: How Wide is Too Wide?
Cover Photo Credit: Steve Rosset
Getting the right width for open spaces in retail areas can be challenging. Too wide and the space can feel open and barren, too narrow and it feels congested and chaotic. Building heights impact appropriate proportions, as do the types of movement and uses occurring in open spaces. Even local climatic factors can influence what the right proportions are. The best open spaces in retail environments can be found in older urban areas in Europe, while many built more recently in the Middle East and Asia are far too expansive. The true metric of success is whether shoppers can visually identify the retailers surrounding an open space, and then traverse the area with minimal interference.
In the US, town centre / lifestyle centre developers have attempted to incorporate open spaces with varying degrees of success. From the perspective of retail, it is important to measure not the dimensions of the open space itself, but the actual distance from storefront to storefront. Linear open spaces, such as medians, tend to be narrower than square-shaped open spaces. Streets, sidewalks, and parking all add to the effective distance that a customer must travel to reach the stores opposite them.
The Grove, LA
The Market Street at the Woodlands, Houston
Santana Row, San Jose
Birkdale Village, North Carolina
Americana at Brand, Glendale
Southside Works, Pittsburgh