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Commercial Brokers and Urban Planners Team up to Make Great Placemakers

What is placemaking? You need to know because there is a global placemaking movement underway and it involves visionaries coming together to create extraordinary places. Surely you’ve traveled to some of these places. They’re easy to recognize. Often times you hate to leave these cities and towns and your conversation turns to how do we move here, get jobs here, and could we afford to live here. The city or town is winning you over. That’s placemaking. If you’re lucky, you don’t just get to travel to these charming villages or fast paced modern city centers, but you actually get to live in one of these extraordinary communities. Creating extraordinary communities, in turn, creates high demand and increased value for the real estate in these areas.

The Principle of Placemaking

commercial brokers and urban planners

There are lots of resources online to guide someone through the principals of placemaking. One of my favorite resources is the Project for Public Spaces,  They tell us “Great public spaces are those places where celebrations are held, social and economic exchanges occur, friends run into each other, and cultures mix. They are the “front porches” of our public institutions – libraries, field houses, schools – where we interact with each other and government. When theses spaces work well, they serve as the stage for our public lives.” In many ways, this is about quality of life, which we can all define differently based on our age, desires and dreams. The common thread in all of this is the opportunity to interact with each other. This interaction keeps us healthy, young at heart, and more motivated than people who tend to live in isolation.

The global placemaking movement is underway! Brokers should take notice! Click To Tweet

Project for Public Spaces tell us that “in evaluating thousands of public spaces around the world, 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.” Great places to live typically have landmarks that draw people from all over the world. The Pensacola National Naval Aviation Museum comes to mind, with visitors pouring in from over 60 foreign countries.

Why Is This so Important to Commercial Brokers?

Because there is high demand for commercial real estate in these areas. It makes a commercial broker living in one of these areas very competitive when presenting to out of market clients. Commercial brokers see firsthand where the demand is leading people. Whether it’s to the high density tech center of town or the more traditional historic district. They also serve as the first lines of communications with their clients that are either looking to expand or relocate. The commercial broker is always helping their client assess their needs. Which can include talking about their parking needs, access for their clientele, what type of image they want to project, etc. Parking needs are largely determined by the planners and engineers, without much input from the commercial real estate community. In the age of Uber and increased dependability on public transportation, parking requirements aren’t what they used to be. Some cities now have zero parking requirements. More discussion between planners and commercial brokers on just this type of requirement would bring added value to placemaking.

Keep An Eye Out for Placemaking Areas

Safe & Beautiful Downtowns

We’ve all walked past a beautiful downtown home and couldn’t help but check the pricing, and were we surprised by the price tag? The value of a walkable downtown with beautiful, safe, and well lighted streets adds value to all of the nearby real estate. Highly desirable locations tend to share the principals of placemaking. So you may find that the answer to the question many of us ponder when touched by a beautiful place, “can we afford to live here?” is “no”, but nonetheless it will remain a highly visited and popular destination to worldwide travelers.

Popular Landmarks

commercial brokers and urban planners

With social media today it’s easy to follow other people’s travel pictures and favorite vacation spots.  Pay attention to the landmarks that are repeatedly in these photos. They places that you pull over to take a picture of the family, perhaps in front of a famous sign, or a famous destination. These landmarks create the images that brand your community. Marketing real estate by location is one thing, but marketing by proximity to landmarks has to do with placemaking and becoming a popular destination. You will also notice how well maintained these locations are, and the powers that be recognize the value in that maintenance. These are highly photographed destinations that receive extra exposure, it’s free marketing, again adding value to nearby commercial real estate.

Historical Districts

The University of West Florida Historic Trust in Pensacola, FL is leading the way in transforming downtown Pensacola with their master planning in our historic district. The plan calls for living museums, closed streets, and creating spaces for people to interact and come together. Much of the proposed living museum will require underutilized parking lots be replaced by unique historical markers that tell a story, along with beautiful siting areas and walking paths.

Great Photo Spots

Next time you travel, pay attention to your favorite photo spots, and what makes them unique. How would you describe the quality of public spaces? Are they functional, traditional, charming? Project for Public Spaces,, tells us to “create a place, not a design.” I can see both planners and commercial brokers embracing this concept and making a great team for ensuring the growth of placemaking principals.

Real estate agents can be some of the greatest advocates for change. They participate in local planning board and city council meetings to understand the challenges a community faces from growth pressures. And while there will of course be competing interest in the community, it’s important to applaud those brokers who take the time to voice their opinions – that’s a valuable service to their clients.

Planners and commercial brokers have vision, whether on behalf of the greater public or a private client. Commercial brokers sell their local communities, they are the front line for showcasing their communities and bringing market investors into the area. Beautiful places are easy to showcase, there’s always a story to be told. Planners and brokers are dedicated tour guides. We brag about where we live and that dedication pays off.

Work with your elected officials and aim to be a consensus builder, a leader, a visionary, a Placemaker.  Stay active, bring forward good discussion and challenge your fellow agents and brokers to participate in community issues.

I’d love to see some of your favorite landmarks and destinations and what makes them so important to you! Please share!


Cynthia-Email-Pull-65614fc39907819bc1121ff289782c042d6d7467About Cynthia Cannon, AICP – Cynthia is based in Pensacola, Florida and joined SVN | SouthLand Commercial in 2015. She has spent more than 20 years as a certified land use planner, in both the public and private sectors. She is now leveraging her skill set to specialize in retail and government related real estate. If you would like to contact her, you can call her at 850-610-8340, or email her at [email protected] You can also follow Cynthia on Twitter at @CCannonCRE.

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