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Placemaking Q&A with the Destination Developers

Published by StreetDots on 29th November 2019 -

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Roger Hopkinson, Founder and MD of The Destination Developers

  1. Can you please tell us a little bit about how you got to this level in placemaking?

A journey. Geography & economics at university followed by a Masters in European Property Development and Planning.  25 years working in the research and consulting sectors of the property industry.  Really found my passion at Jones Lang LaSalle in their Strategic Consulting team when we advised on regeneration projects like the Millennium Dome (O2), Greenwich Peninsula, Kings Cross, plus the creation of Business Improvement Districts.

  1. What skills does a placemaker need to have in order to be successful?

AEI – awareness, enthusiasm and an inquisitive nature of what, why, who and how things are happening around the location, the place, or project. I believe that applies whether you are placemaker coming from the urban design, maaterplanning, architecture, property, planning, business advisory, marketing, engineering or consultation sectors.

  1. What other industries do you to for inspiration?

Fast moving consumer goods – FMCG – they can control how they are developed, promoted and sold, much harder for places but there are lessons.  I think of placemaking as a “product to market strategy”:  What the place is? Why it is different? Who will buy it? How it is branded? How it is brought to market? What is its value?.  

  1. How long does it take for a development to become fully activated and how have you, in the past measured this?

This can vary on the economic cycle, demographics, part of the world, country, city and piece of city, quantum of development, use mix plus of course the approach undertaken for placemaking and ingredients that might already be in place.  For example, is it a rundown area of warehousing adjacent to an existing City Centre, or Central Business District, like Shoreditch, Clerkenwell, The Liberties, Meatpacking District, De Pjip?  Measuring could involve footfall, bednights, vacancy, rents/values, media coverage, additional jobs, training, new homes, gross value add; increasingly cost benefit analysis is being used.

  1. How much does media play a part in effective placemaking?

For long term sustainable placemaking only after detailed due diligence of a place brand strategy has been prepared.  That sets out the purpose, experience, offer and reputation to target audiences and markets.  This then frames the media brief. This is the collateral that graphic designers, digital, print or broadcast media then bring their skills to use.

  1. What companies/consultants would you recommend collaborating with the in this space?

There are lots coming from different directions, all can offer something depending on the context, whether masterplanners, urban designers, property, planning etc. I love the work, each from slightly different places, of Bloom Consulting, Resonance, Wordsearch and Hoyne. Great recent work experiences with the likes of AECOM, BDP, Arup, a great Portuguese architect Miguel Menanon at MM Concept.

  1. How much does media play a part in effective placemaking?

When the heavy lifting has been done in preparing the place brand, the playbook for delivery, then the media should be engaged.  Sometimes naming works but too often it is an empty promise.  You need to develop an idea that is credible, compelling and an inspiring experience – you want a place with meaning.  Often when local people and visitors are enthralled by the place and the media pick up on it that is perhaps a sign of success.

  1. Can you recommend a book or a ted talk on the subject of placemaking?

The Richard Rogers books from the 1990’s Cities for a small Planet and Cities for a small country helped inspire me. Andy Hoyne and his colleagues at Hoyne in Australia, their two recent Place Economy books are amazing.

  1. If you had to give words to describe the fundamentals of successful placemaking, what would they be and why?

Property & Finance; Design & Planning and Markets & Brand.  I produced this graphic a few years ago – the middle is the sweet spot and means great placemaking.

  1. Do you have an ideal or mentor in the placemaking or planning space?

During a career you often have older colleagues who help you capture your interest and passion.  For me, Andrew Gould, formerly of Jones Lang LaSalle; Richard Tibbott founder of Locum Destination Consulting and Malcolm Allan of Bloom Consulting. Anthony Shapland of Colliers International, does what I term the “hard power” (property financials & development detail) but totally extolls the value of the “soft power” (design, the markets & brand piece).  He has a great line, “the spaces between the buildings are most important”.  

Combined the hard and soft power helps shape great place making.

Roger Hobkinson

Founder & MD | The Destination Developers

[email protected]


Nigel Parsons

The world's first placemaking booking platform. Connecting real estate with independent brands providing rotational options of food, beverage, retail, fresh produce and wellness. Fully managed, increasing footfall, enlivenment and additional revenue.

Link to StreetDots business profile

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