Robert Gibbs' Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development

New Book Looks at Retail Principles, Restoring Communities

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Principles of Urban Retail Planning & Development, a new book by Michigan consultant and CNU Charter member Robert Gibbs, ASLA is based on Gibbs’ 30 years of urban design and planning practice. Written from an insider’s perspective, this book reveals the retail industry’s current principles and practices for implementing sustainable commerce—the knowledge needed to increase retail sales and market share in historic urban centers and ensure their viability in new ones. This book focuses on explicating the retail principles for restoring neighborhoods, villages, towns, and urban commercial districts to their traditional roles as the local and regional centers for commerce and trade. 

Urban retail design and shopping center development constitute two of the most important, but least understood, elements by many landscape architects. Municipal authorities, city planners, and real estate developers have widely differing views on how best to implement new retail. Although well intended, many public policies have resulted in hindering the viability and growth of commerce in historic cities and new towns. Unfortunately, such actions were based on gross misunderstandings of how commerce works in urban environments—the retail rules that often conflict with the accepted tenets of urban design and planning.

In easy to understand dialogue, the book describes and illustrates the relationships between commercial real estate finance and development and the psychology of commerce—the practical art of analyzing and adjusting all elements known to affect a shopper’s state of mind, from the location and design of all sizes of buildings (including large format department stores), liner retail, parking, and streetscape to the level of site lighting. It features research and case studies in Alaska, California, Canada, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Scotland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

Gibbs has merged proven retail industry techniques for building typology, business models, lighting, historical centers, parks, parking, pavers, signage, streetscape, trees and zoning policy into diagrams and explanations that can be easily understood by citizens, landscape architects, real estate developers and public policy makers.

The principles outlined in this book are not intended to replace traditional landscape architectural practices. Rather, they constitute a guide to help planners and policy makers master basic yet essential retail principles that when disregarded or misconstrued can have grave economic consequences.

The applications are intended to help landscape architects design and communicate with their private and public clients on how to revive downtown retail, and retrofit failed suburban centers as well as plan new towns.

Read an excerpt from Gibbs bookon Parking here.