The project brings together four streams of research to investigate the changing nature and composition of retailing centres, and identify the factors that contribute towards building adaptive capacity through diversity and innovation. The four integrated research streams are as follows:

Diversity and Spatial Adaptation within Retailing Systems


In this stage of the research, previously disparate strands of secondary data will be drawn together to construct a land and commercial building stock database that contains the details of the use and user, tenure structure and any changes made to the properties located within five case study centres over the last two decades.  This linked data will enable spatial and temporal changes in land and property use and ownership in each centre to be explored.

Methods, such as exploratory mapping techniques, will be employed to identify and categorise spatial changes in tenure structures, and reveal the links between ownership, use, the allocation of space for diverse service provision, leisure and social interaction and the adaptive capacity of the built environment.  This is an important stage as informs an evidence based evaluation of the changes, if any, that are occurring in the vitality and diversity of urban retailing centres.

Project Lead: Allison Orr

Time Frame: October 2018 to September 2019

Place Adaptation and Innovative Urban Form within Retailing  Systems


Desk-based research, building on the outputs of the earlier stock database, will be used to create an inventory of urban form and land use innovations within the retail sector. Examples of innovations (two per study area) will be examined in-depth using multiple fieldwork methods (involving stakeholder forums, interviews, observation and spatial analysis) to investigate policy, use, design and building layout. Semi-structured interviews will be undertaken with developers, designers, planners, council estates officers and occupiers (approximately 3-4 per innovation) to examine the role these innovations play in the renewal and adaptive capacity of the retailing environment, and opportunities/barriers to further innovation.

These investigations into innovative urban forms and land use within existing and new retail areas seek to examine their role in the adaptive efficiency of the built environment. This will shed light on whether design innovations, flexible uses and large scale redevelopments are the solution to long-term ‘structural’ vacancy and how stakeholders are impacted by change.

Project Lead:  James White

Time Frame: June 2019 to May 2020 (adjusted to May 2021)

Real Estate Innovation within Retailing  Systems


Fine level spatial analysis techniques on secondary data collected in an earlier project stream are used to examine the impact of re-development on the established boundaries of the prime and secondary trading areas within these centres and the value and use of commercial properties across city centres.  Primary data on the nature and effects of other land use changes, whether as permanent or flexible, temporary uses, will be collected.  This will enable us to evaluate the readiness of owners and occupiers to adapt and innovate, and explore how new uses and forms are impacting on established real estate market practices, investment viability and resilience in these markets.

Project Lead:  Allison Orr

Time Frame: October 2019 to September 2020 (adjusted to July 2021)

Social Structures and Integration within Retailing Systems


The challenge now is to recognise and understand the social arrangements that facilitate collaboration between occupiers, property owners, local authorities and other stakeholders in reconfiguring and making urban centres more resilient. An improved understanding should stimulate the creation of more constructive relationships – co-operation, trust and possibly even competitive ties – that are necessary to facilitate the process of adaptation and renewal in the building stock, which in turn will help in the rejuvenation of centres.

Such an approach, employing primary qualitative data collected from interviews with different stakeholders, assemblage theory and a processual approach to investigate how social structures are organised, to provide a nuanced understanding of the way in which power operates within, through and across networks of actors. Examining the involvement of land and property owners and developers within these agencements with enable investigation into the ways the social structures may work to create unique retailing destinations, or to hinder adaptive capacity.

Project Lead:  Cath Jackson

Time Frame: June 2020 to May 2021 (adjusted to March 2022)

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