Jeff Pollak Talks Successful Activation + Placemaking with CBRE

Culture

Jeff Pollak Talks Successful Activation + Placemaking with CBRE

July 15, 2021

Jeff Pollak, Streetsense Managing Principal + Vice President, sat down with our partner CBRE to discuss Activation and Placemaking. Jeff, a 30-year real estate veteran and one of the nation’s leading retail consultants, has worked on every type of consumer environment imaginable. Get a glimpse into his conversation with CBRE:

How should investors be thinking about their retail or mixed-use assets?
The mix of uses is a key here because the ingredients you used to put in the blender aren’t what they used to be. In order to have a successful place, owners have to think about driving a diversity of users and activation in a broader sense. So we’re thinking about health and wellness, sustainability, culture, education, civic uses, municipal needs, etc. The trend toward mixed use isn’t new, but the diversity and mix of uses is making us look at how and who uses the built environment. 

You mentioned activation—what does it mean to activate more broadly?
When you think about activation in a mixed-use environment, you think about building an ecosystem that means different things to different users at different times. You have to look at activating a space by day parts, user needs and demand.  Activation for the sake of activation is a waste of resources. Activating because you understand what will resonate with the end user will make that user group come more often, stay longer and spend more. Activation goes hand in hand with placemaking… and I feel the same about placemaking as I do activation: placemaking should generate ROI.

So targeting those different audiences at different times of day, what does that mean for tenant mix?
Great activation and great placemaking are about understanding the consumer—the end user. Is the consumer a Blue Bottle customer or a Starbucks consumer? Is your consumer going home to ride the Peloton, or are they going to stay for a Soul Cycle class, pushing a stroller or meeting friends for dinner? Understanding your consumer allows you to craft the right place, the right experience, the right activation and ultimately the right merchandising mix.

You mentioned placemaking should drive ROI—can you explain that?
By crafting a place that resonates in a meaningful way, you will make the consumer your advocate. It’s the consumer that decides your success by telling your story for you. However, it doesn’t happen organically. The best places script the story for the consumer by way of placemaking, activations and engagements. It can’t be contrived; it needs to be real. By developing that unconscious handshake with your consumers, you will drive more business and return on your investment. 

By The Streetsense Collective