Creative place making Part Two: Peter Chittenden

Peter ChittendenAugust 6, 20150 min read

Following from my earlier post I want to look further at the important role of creative place making as a vigorous part of the project development and marketing mix. To do so let’s examine three core areas that are commonly used to help define ‘place making’ and see how they combine to help structure the sort of places (communities and neighbourhoods) where people want to live.

After all, that’s the fundamental aim of every project we take to the market and help to develop.

Social Offering

The social offering of a development, either a medium or high density project or a new housing estate is tied to the identity of the area and a good social offering, as part of place making, does doubtless establish a valuable and tangible competitive advantage.

When looking for a positive social offering we will rely upon two main areas, infrastructure (nothing surprising there) and how people then relate to and use an area. It’s that vibe you feel in an area, the feeling of a genuine community that’s come about because of a grassroots organic process.

Infrastructure is so important because this impacts the things people are able to do in an area, and how they live and use the area as part of their daily activity and lives. Visitors will have a different affinity, but still infrastructure will determine the quality of everyone’s engagement with an area, and in-turn the individual developments.

However when referring to infrastructure we need to look beyond the hard areas like key services (schools, shops and transport for example) and consider the wide social offering of an area including the arts.

Social infrastructure will vary between an inner-city brownfield location and a new greenfield location, but both will offer opportunity for community engagement and the arts can be used to seed that for new projects and residents. Mixed-use developments do have an advantage in that they will often be of a scale that includes new social, at times culturally and arts focused projects.


This is a significant area, it’s a big subject, that results in an area making people feel welcome and comfortable, a simple idea I agree, but as the density of our cities increases, this is a key to creating well-rounded communities.

Openness as part of place making is very much tied up in the demographics of an area, and as demographics shift there can be challenges involved. It’s not so much an area that a developer can directly create or deliver, but comes about more as a result of planning, although the product mix of a building does play a role.

When we think about demographics, a mixed profile is most often seen as the best outcome, a mix of ages and family types is good so that the neighbourhood is not narrowly fixed on one demographic. We want the area to say ‘please come and live here or visit, you’re welcome.’

Putting this another way, we want people to feel comfortable and welcome in an area, in a new project and this is a point that can be kept in mind in the planning and design of projects. Also as the demographics of a suburb change we already see openness linked to the areas such as ageing in place and affordability, both have a part to play, and they’re big topics in themselves.


The appearance of a project is the most positive and visible and important expression of ‘place making’ because it’s here we address the aesthetics of the built environment, the public and accessible parts of a project. It’s also an area where developers can take the lead.

With a small project this could be limited to the main residents foyer, connecting the building to the street, while for larger projects there’s often the ability to create a big impact via open plaza areas, parks, shops, cafes and community facilities, the bigger the project the bigger the potential impact.

This same area would also include the common areas of any development, and while these areas are not usually open to full public access, common areas do set the tone and character of a project and are an essential part of a building’s appeal. Common areas are even more important to buyers, as apartments are tending to get smaller.

These areas are often the glamour stars of marketing material and I think with any size project, buyers always pay a lot of attention to the quality and presentation of common areas, creating a sense of arrival and status.

Looking for a suitable way to sum up the importance of appearance, as a key to creative place making is not easy. It’s an important area, essential really and usually involves a major investment, not only by a project developer, but also frequently by the local councils and government. For the City of Sydney this is a big focus.

Aesthetics, design and appearance can create a valuable reputation for a building and an entire area, and no matter the scale I think if the residents and visitors feel proud of an area then that’s a tick for all involved.

Creative place making then involves a wide range of interesting topics from the arts to demographics, and in the constant rush of high demand and rising prices this topic still deserves our attention. The feeling of place after all will survive varied market conditions and mark the quality and appeal of where we spend our daily lives.

Read the first part of Peter's post here.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International. He can be contacted here.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.
Property market
Creative Development
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