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Jonathan Doughty & Marc Blum

How can we create places that attract, excite and inspire people again and again - urban experience spaces with a wow effect? In our blog conversation, food expert Jonathan Doughty, Project Director - Leasing Services at ECE Marketplaces, and architect Marc Blum, Director Creative Design at ECE Group Services, reveal what matters in placemaking and what role tenants play in the process. 

What is Placemaking? And how does it work?

Jonathan Doughty: Placemaking is like the yeast in bread. It's the ingredient that makes all the difference. It's like having a great recipe. You can buy great ingredients. But if you mix them wrong, you end up with something that tastes terrible. I believe placemaking is a mental attitude. It's a discipline that helps us make the most of what we build and create. So that it feels human, that it's winning, that it's a place we want to be.

That sounds good. But how is that to be implemented in buildings like shopping centers?

Marc Blum: It has a lot to do with creating unforgettable memories. We long for places that enable a community experience, where we enjoy coming together and having a great time together. For such authentic experiential spaces, you need the right ingredients: the right materials, colors, greenery and more. And, of course, what tenants bring to the space is important. It's all about creating that very special moment. That includes surprises. It can't be a place where you know exactly what's going to happen around every corner.

Jonathan Doughty: It's about evoking emotion - using all the tools at your disposal. And then please pepper and salt it with humor! That way you get something distinctive that draws people in. The best restaurants in the world rarely also serve the best food. They are the best restaurants because they have a great ambiance, offer experiences, feelings and connectivity. We can't forget that: Designing places means making them attractive to people. That's where the energy comes from!

Marc Blum: Convincing storytelling is also very important here. We try to tell a good and authentic story that fits the respective location and its people. They should be places that people are proud of. Pride in one's own neighborhood or center is a very important aspect of placemaking. ECE's properties - from retail to mixed use - are mostly located in the heart of cities. They can all become significant pieces in the puzzle of tomorrow's city. That's why we need to listen carefully to understand the wants and needs of the local market and the local people. Every place needs that special, individual touch.

Die Potsdamer Platz Arkaden

Mission Play

Skyline Plaza Frankfurt

How can existing shopping centers be integrated into this big city puzzle?

 Jonathan Doughty: A good example is Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. The complex, built in the 1990s, no longer met the requirements and expectations. Yet all the components were there: Offices, leisure facilities, stores. But it no longer worked. So it was time for a fresh start, following the Placemaking rules. Together with Brookfield, we are now completely recreating the place. A destination with many new, exciting tenants is emerging. For the new Potsdamer Platz, for example, we have been able to attract the hip London food concept "Mercato Metropolitano." Mattel will also open its first European "Mission: Play!" family entertainment center here. We also have other exciting concepts that will absolutely redefine this location in the heart of Berlin. But Potsdamer Platz is just one example. We have many more at ECE. For example, the repositioning of MyZeil in Frankfurt am Main - with great culinary offerings, with an "Astor Film Lounge" and a plaza on the fourth floor of the center. At the Main-Taunus Center, we are planning a large outdoor food garden. Exciting urban experience locations that will delight their visitors from morning to night.

Astor Film Lounge in the MyZeil


Jonathan Doughty: Digitization is an enabler. It makes it possible to get things quickly. But it can't replace the real-life shopping experience. You can just order your favorite dish online and eat it at home in front of the TV. But that's no substitute for a delightful visit to a restaurant. For those who don't want an experience, it's fantastic. I'm looking for a new iPhone and I know exactly which one I want. I go online, find six providers. I choose the cheapest one and click the button: bang! But if I'm looking for a real experience, I'd rather go to the store in person.

Marc Blum: A sense of community, social interaction, sensory experiences, smelling, tasting, seeing, touching - the Internet can't deliver all that. That brings us back to the beginning of our conversation: We need to create destinations that people crave. In the online age, it's a matter of staging what can't be digitized. For me as an architect, this is great news. We need to use all our vocabulary, all our tools, and consistently implement placemaking strategies. We need to mix and dose all the ingredients correctly to create wonderful places for people.

Jonathan Doughty: And a key ingredient in that is the tenant. We can have great places. But at the end of the day, it's also about attracting just the right tenants for each location. At ECE, we have experienced teams that look for and find exactly the tenants we need.

ECE Editorial Team

Our editorial team reports on interesting facts in and out of ECE and provides up-to-date information about our real estate projects via corporate channels. In addition, we deal intensively with trends and developments in the areas of Marketplaces and Work & Live. In our blog, we give our experts a voice and provide interesting insights into topics that move us.