Multifunctional Centres: A sustainable role for town and city centres

This report, authored by researchers from the Institute of Place Management, draws insights from academic evidence, Springboard footfall data, and the High Street UK 2020 Project, to explore the future of our centres. Although published in 2015, it provides important insights into how high streets and town centres might be transformed in the future. It specifically argues for the importance of centres to be multifunctional, providing more than just retail.

Date added 2 July 2020
Last updated 2 July 2020

This report, authored by researchers from the Institute of Place Management, draws insights from academic evidence, Springboard footfall data, and the IPM’s High Street UK 2020 Project, to explore how centres can - and should - move away from a mono-functional focus on retail offer. Although published in 2015, it therefore provides important insights into how high streets and town centres might be transformed in the future, within a post-pandemic landscape. Ultimately, the report sends out a rallying cry for more centres to become multifunctional places, “...supporting leisure and recreation, employment, tourism, heritage, culture, housing, employment, education, health and wellbeing, as well as retail” (p. 5). It nicely complements, therefore, the ‘Build Back Better’ report published in June 2020 from Bill Grimsey and team - as featured in another High Streets Task Force resource - which argues for a ‘post retail landscape’. Where high streets and town centres are encouraged to provide experiences and community hubs, as well as shops. The Multifunctional Centres report begins by outlining the broader short-term, medium-term, and long-term structural and behavioural changes leading to what the authors term a ‘multi-functional centre renaissance’. Second, the report covers the importance of footfall as a performance indicator, outlining the ‘footfall signatures' identified by the IPM in the Bringing Big Data to Small Users Project. And finally, the opportunities provided by temporary events and more flexible use of space is discussed, with reference to the importance of markets.

Further related resources:

You can read more about the multi-functional centres report on the IPM website.

You can read more about the High Street UK 2020 Project here.

You can read more about the footfall signatures and BDSU Project here.