Successful Public Places as Local Economic Drivers

Successful public places drive economic activity, the research is indisputable and that’s why towns and cities are putting urban design at the centre of efforts to renew and revitalise their local economies.

So what makes a successful public place? According to the Project for Public Places (PPS) “in evaluating thousands of public spaces around the world, PPS has found that to be successful, they generally share the following four qualities: they are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place: one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit.

Further to these four qualities we might add the following (heavily summarised) list that helps us understand on a basic level why some public spaces thrive and others fail:

Features of Effective Public Places:

>Human scale streets (streets made for the scale of people not made for the scale of traffic or huge buildings)

>Suitable to a diversity of activities including recreation, socialising and entertainment

>Many possibilities for walking and alternative transports such as bike riding

>Able to be accessed from a multitude of ways and therefore encourages user choice

>Protects people from the extremes of climate

>Has a variety of entertainment options

>Free of the fear of crime

How Public Places Drive Local Economies

“A high quality public environment can have a significant impact on the economic life of urban centres big or small and is therefore an essential part of any successful regeneration strategy. Companies are attracted to locations that offer well-designed well-managed public places and these in turn attract customers, employees and services. In town centres a pleasant and well maintained environment increases the number of people visiting retail areas, otherwise known as foot-fall.

A good public landscape also offers very clear benefits to the local economy in terms of stimulating increased house prices, since house-buyers are willing to pay to be near green space.”

Good public space drives economic growth in our towns and cities and this is just a very brief summary of some key concepts of which there are many more.

If your town is struggling cast your eye over the state of public space in your town and ask yourself if it’s effective or not.

Author: Stephen Burton


CABE, (2002) The Value of Public Space How high quality parks and public spaces create economic, social and environmental value. London

Project for Public Spaces, What Makes a Successful Place?

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