C4. Streets, public realm and economic value

Streets as drivers of prosperity

Aims and method:

Examines the role of streets with regard to the five dimensions of prosperity measured by the City Prosperity Index (CPI): productivity, infrastructure development, environmental sustainability, quality of life, and equity / social inclusion. The work is based on data from more than 100 cities around the world in order to provide a bigger picture of the role of streets in various contexts.

Key findings:

· Productivity, infrastructure development, environmental sustainability, quality of life, and equity / social inclusion – are all strongly linked to the presence of quality street space

· Those cities that have failed to integrate the multi-functionality of streets tend to have lesser infrastructure development, lower productivity and a poorer quality of life.

· Most cities in the developing world share common characteristics: inadequate and deteriorating transport infrastructure; and poor facilities for non-motorised transport (walking and cycling). One effect of these problems has been the further marginalisation of the most vulnerable segments of society who rely the most on public transport and cannot afford private alternatives.

· Lack of a coherent continuous network of streets in cities has various implications in people’s lives. It means that cities’ ability to provide services, such as safe water and adequate sanitation, is severely hampered.


UN Habitat (2013) Streets as public spaces and drivers of urban prosperity. Nairobi: UN Habitat.


Better streets and retail performance

Aims and method:

Presents evidence that investment in better streets and places can deliver commercial returns to businesses and investors, as well as improve consumer’s perceptions of high streets. A comprehensive review of the literature was carried out to locate all relevant studies and grey literature.

Key findings:

· Making places better for walking can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%

· Good urban design can raise retail rents by up to 20%

· Comparisons of spending by transport mode in Canada and New Zealand revealed that pedestrians spent up to six-times more than people arriving by car. In London town centres in 2011, walkers spent £147 more per month than those travelling by car;

· Retailers often overate the importance of the car; a study in Graz (Austria), subsequently repeated in Bristol (UK) found that retailers overestimated the number of customers arriving by car by almost 100%

· Landowners and retailers are willing to pay to improve the streetscape in order to attract tenants and customers.


Lawlor, E. (2013). The pedestrian pound: the business case for better streets and places. London: Living Streets.


The value of mixed street corridors

Aims and method:

Through a complimentary set of empirical investigations, London's local high streets (its mixed street corridors) are explored across two scales, in terms of their strategic city-wide contribution, and through their local impact. They are examined both with regard to their situation today and their future potential. A mixed methods approach was used to conduct the research, involving four key stages a desktop literature and policy review; map-based historical and typological analysis; GIS-based mapping and review of existing high street data; and on-site case study analysis of six local high streets across London.

Key findings:

· London's high streets account for just 3.6% of the road network

· London's high streets support more employment than the Central Activities Zone, and deliver major quality of life benefits to Londoners

· Prioritising investment on London's 500 km high street network could deliver growth and regeneration benefits to a vast area of London (22% of the total area of Greater London is within 200 m of a high street)

· Half of London's brownfield land is on or within 200 m of a high street, or a 2–3 min walk

· Prioritising investment on London's high streets could benefit a vast population transcending all sections of society as two thirds of Londoners (5 million people) live within a 5 min walk of a high street.

· Mixed streets represent a particularly ‘wicked’ problem for cities, yet, as the research shows, they are also some of the most important spaces in the city, of far greater complexity and local significance than is realised, and possessing untapped strategic growth potential.


Carmona M (2015) “London's local high streets: The problems, potential and complexities of mixed street corridors”, Progress in Planning, 100: 1-84


High street economic opportunities

Aims and method:

Asks what is the value of high streets for London and how can their regeneration meet the needs of all Londoner’s in a more equitable fashion. A mix of approaches is used, including a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods: primary research involving surveys and interviews with traders, high street visitors and other stakeholders; observational analysis of high streets; secondary research using GLA data analysis and GIS data sets; and a review of existing literature.

Key findings:

· 47% of businesses outside Central London are on a high street and 1.45 million employees work on or within 200 metres of a high street, and this number is growing.

· 45% of surveyed users’ primary high street use was non-retail related – evidence that Londoners value the social exchanges that high streets support. This is especially important for vulnerable groups, particularly the elderly.

· High streets are important gathering spaces for marginalised and under-represented groups. 51% of visitors to high streets are not in employment, compared with 27% across London.

· Almost 40% of small businesses interviewed performed some kind of social function.

· 63% of surveyed users walk to the high street, showing they are accessible and promote healthier, more active modes of transport.

· The economic capacity of high streets is highly adaptive, catering to existing communities and newcomers alike. Opportunities are highly varied, consisting of employment for marginalised Londoners as much as for highly skilled people


We Made That & LSE Cities (2017) High Streets for All, London, Greater London Authority


The value of good street design

Aims and method:

Investigates the value added by improvements in the public realm design of streets. The research studied ten cases in London using the pedestrian environment review system (PERS), a tool for measuring the quality of the pedestrian environment and correlated this quality data with both residential property values retail rental values and pedestrian willingness to pay survey data.

Key findings:

· Well-designed buildings, spaces and places contribute to a wide diversity of values and benefits. These range from direct, tangible, financial benefits to indirect, intangible, long-term values such as improved public health or reduced levels of crime.

· For each single point increase on the PERS street quality scale, a corresponding increase of £25 per square metre in rent per year could be calculated. This equates to a 4.9 per cent increase in shop rents for each PERS point.

· For each single point increase in the PERS street quality scale, a corresponding increase of £13,600 in residential prices could be calculated. This equates to a 5.2 per cent increase in the price of an apartment for each PERS point.

· Willingness to Pay calculations revealed the pedestrians were willing to pay up to £320,000 a year (collectively) through higher council tax or public transport fares in order to improve their local high streets.


CABE Space (2007). Paved with Gold: The real value of street design. London: CABE.


Economic benefits from investing in streets

Aims and method:

Uses a cross-section of New York City Department of Transport street design projects to discuss the metrics used to evaluate street projects. Draws out key statistics that demonstrate the benefits of investing in streets.

Key findings:

· Establishing bike paths on 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan increased local business retail sales up to 49% compared with 3% borough-wide.

· Expanding walking facilities in Union Square North (Manhattan) reduced commercial vacancies 49%, compared to a 5% increase borough-wide.

· Converting an underused parking lot into a public park on Pearl Street (Brooklyn) increased nearby retail sales volumes by 172%, compared to 18% borough-wide.

· Converting a curb lane into a public seating area on Pearl Street (Manhattan) increased sales volumes at adjacent businesses by 14%.

· Establishing a bus lane and other bus transit improvements on Fordham Road (Bronx) increased nearby retail sales 71% compared to 23% borough-wide.

· Developing bus- and bike-lanes on First and Second Avenue reduced commercial vacancy rates 47%, compared with 2% borough-wide.


New York City, Department of Transportation (2012), Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets, New York City Department of Transportation


Economic benefits of sustainable streets

Aims and method:

Assesses the economic benefits of improvements to the street design (including increasing safety, pedestrianisation, enhancing streetscape and street furniture) of seven commercial street environments in New York. The impact of street improvements on retail businesses were assessed yearly for 3 years after improvement utilising retail sales transaction data.

Key findings:

· All case experienced improvements in sales data over the three years, well above comparator locations and sometimes more than double the baseline comparators.

· Improved accessibility and a more welcoming street environment created by these projects generate increases in retail sales


New York City, Department of Transportation (2012) ”The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Streets” The New York City


The value of street-based improvements

Aims and method:

Aimed to gain a proper understanding of the impact of street improvement projects on London’s streets. A mixed research methodology was adopted based on the comparison of five improved and fived unimproved street environments. Data was selected and analysed with a focus on achieving an in-depth understanding of each dimension of an holistic analytical framework including data on physical fabric, movement, exchange and real estate.

Key findings:

· Improvements to the quality of the publicly owned and managed areas of London’s mixed streets, such as its high streets and town centres, return substantial benefits to the everyday users of streets, and to the occupiers of space and investors in surrounding property in multiple ways

· A one third uplift in the physical quality of the street as a whole from interventions in the publicly owned street space.

· An uplift in office rental values equivalent to an ‘additional’ 4% per annum.

· A larger uplift in retail rental values equivalent to an ‘additional’ 7.5% per annum and a strongly related decline in retail vacancy leading to a sizable 17% per annum difference in vacancy rates between improved and unimproved street environments.

· A growth in leisure uses, and a greater resilience in the improved streets of traditional (A1) and comparison retail; all bucking the trend seen elsewhere.

· An almost negligible impact on residential values and inconsequential impacts, from the street improvements alone, on traffic flows or the modal choices made by individuals when travelling, but a reduction in serious or fatal accidents on those streets with higher pre-existing levels of collisions.

· A large 96% boost in static (e.g. standing, waiting, and sitting) and 93% boost in active (e.g. walking) street behaviours in improved over unimproved areas, with strong potential health benefits in the resulting more active lifestyles.

· A particularly large 216% hike in the sorts of leisure based static activities (e.g. stopping at a café or sitting at a bench) that only happen when the quality of the environment is sufficiently conducive to make people wish to stay.

· Very strong perceptions amongst both everyday street users and local property occupiers that street improvement schemes significantly enhance street character, walkability, ease of crossing, opportunities for sitting, and general street vibrancy.


Carmona, M., Gabrieli, T., Hickman, R., Laopoulou T., Livingstone N., (2017) “Street appeal: the value of street improvements” Progress in Planning.


The value of public realm

Aims and method:

Explores the impact on real estate value and user experience of significant interventions in the public realm. Eleven placemaking (public realm) initiatives were chosen covering every major region of the world over a three period between 2015 and 2017. Rental and capital value data was gathered from local CBRE offices covering (variously) retail, office and residential sectors. The data (which varied from case to case) was compared against a separate assessment of the human experience of the places and pedestrian counts using methods of Gehl Architects.

Key findings:

· Eight of the eleven improved areas saw value uplifts, sometimes of a substantial nature, such as the 166% uplift in retail and 53% in the residential market seen in the Place du Marché Saint Honoré area of Paris. Three saw no change.

· The human experiences of all the spaces were materially enhanced as regards protection, comfort and enjoyment with greater demand to visit and dwell in each of the areas investigated.

· Improvements to the public realm create wellbeing and value uplift in four ways: improving the image of an area, creating a new destination by establishment of new commercial or recreational facilities, adding versatility to an area so that it can be used for events, and establishing the character of a newly developed area.


CBRE & Gehl Architects (2017) Place making, Value and the Public Realm, London CBRE.


Street-based value in estate regeneration

Aims and method:

Examines the relative merits of two different methods of estate regeneration: block renewal which replaces all existing buildings and an alternative ‘Complete Streets’ model (new streets of terraced housing and mid-rise mansion blocks with the occasional retention and re-use/refurbishment of old blocks, including a mix of uses). The approach models the two approaches on a range of sample sites across London reflecting different densities.

Key findings:

· All types of local authority housing estate renewal in the UK are capable of increasing the number of homes on a hectare of estate land.

· If post-war estates had been built using a streets-based model, an additional 480,000 households could have been housed on them.

· The increase now possible could be 73%, from 78 homes per hectare currently to an average of 135 homes per hectare (plus a variety of neighbourhood, community and commercial premises), provided renewal takes the form of high quality, integrated and permeable urban streetscapes

· Approximately 1,750 hectares of London’s 8,500 hectares of local authority housing estates might be capable of this type of regeneration. This represents an increase over the number of existing homes of between 54,000 and 360,000


Savills (2016) “Completing London's Streets; How the regeneration and intensification of housing estates could increase London’s supply of homes and benefit residents”, savills.com, 11 Jan 2016