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How Urban Street Trends Increase Profits, Improve Public Spaces

Streets should be a place to walk to instead of just a space to move through. The best cities design streets to enhance aesthetic experience and available activities. By creating the ground level space of residential building for mixed use, organizations can profit while community living thrives.

The growing walkability trend focuses on designing streets for an exciting and diverse ground-level experience. The most popular and livable city streets across the globe are designed to encourage lingering. With a human-scale focus, city planners and construction managers can shape great cities with strong economies and high quality of life.

1. The Best Public Spaces

Crafting the public stage where life unfolds requires collaboration and intentionality among developers. The most diverse and exciting streets purposefully facilitate community and increased social interaction. The Project for Public Spaces organization has spent a great deal of observation and research in isolating the key ingredients for place making. The top eight factors of great cities are as follows:

  1. Great activities and destinations
  2. Safe
  3. Inviting and rich in detail
  4. Designed for lingering
  5. Interactive and social
  6. Unique
  7. Accessible
  8. Flexible

With outdoor dining cafes, merchant displays, an amphitheater and year-round events, places like the Historic 25th Street in Ogden, Utah come at the top of the list for popularity and liveliness. Some consistent public events include bike races, yoga gatherings, art crawls, live theater and music, movie nights, a farmers’ market and a Christmas village. Other streets, such as the Freshmen Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, stand out for their energetic ambiance and color, local artists and famous music venues.

Creating active ground floors in buildings is one of the best strategies for successful place making. Multi-use first floors not only make streets more inviting for pedestrians, but also increase profitability for restaurants, bars, retailers and other vendors. Therefore, well-designed streets improve economic growth.

2. Walkability and Community Interaction

The growing urban trend of walkability has caught on in cities such as the Norwegian city of Oslo, Paris and Manhattan, where cyclists thrive, public transit is king and widened side-walks offer vibrant pedestrian life. Cities become great places to live when they are designed for people and livability. The best towns cultivate a high level of life access for work, play, community, shopping and aesthetic expression.

Reports from dozens of studies have quantified the economic vitality and community health benefits of walkable cities. Here are just a few examples of life quality improvements:

  • Increased Life Span: Inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death around the world. For aging citizens, even a 15-minute daily walk can reduce risk of dying by 22%.
  • Improved Happiness: Commuting time is at the top of least enjoyed daily activities, but on the flip side, even an 8.6-minute daily walk can increase mental health by 33%.
  • Boosted Business: Walkable neighborhoods will draw in more foot traffic and business. Pedestrians will spend 65% more than drivers.
  • Reduced Air Pollution: As proven in Paris, even a single car-free day can cut smog by as much as 40%. Walkable cities reduce the need for car usage and toxic emissions.

3. Comfortable Street Level Businesses

As communities are fostered around high-density buildings and downtown areas, businesses can thrive. Intelligent urbanism creates a cycle of economic growth, which leads to more work and opportunity as well as increased tourism appeal. One way to increase the appeal of ground level retail space is to increase ceiling heights. The additional space creates a level of subconscious comfort for pedestrians, which further improves public space.

Whether designed for working, shopping or living, multistory buildings should feel comfortable in order to invite more usage.  Additionally, buildings should include emergency exit doors on the ground floor to increase safety. Steel exit doors are the best as they are the best for sustainability and recyclability. With a focus on quality experience for pedestrians, cities can successfully create the vital street life.

4. Adaptable, Mixed-Use Buildings

Public space is the essence of urban life. Great place making happens when spaces are flexible, shifting with the community they serve. When it comes to utilizing the ground floor of each building, construction managers should emphasize mixed use and adaptability. This intelligent design allows for denser cities and livelier public spaces.

Cities such as San Francisco have thrived in utilizing the ground level. Their city planners have modified zoning codes in many ways to increase building and street engagement. With more space availability and strategic usage, buildings can offer more opportunity for interaction, creative experimentation, social, civic and economic encounters at the street level.

As city planners and architects design more mixed-use residential buildings, the need for parking will slowly decrease. As dedicated lots disappear, there will be more space for economic growth.  The need for parking fades as the need for cars is reduced. As streets are increasingly designed for people instead of cars, walkability soars and the rate of local car-owners drops, which also lowers toxic emissions.


With special attention to intelligent design in fostering urbanization, city streets can become more walkable and inviting. When cities are built intentionally for livability, the economy improves and attracts further growth. As the experience-driven trends catch on, the ground level can be a dynamic space for the essence of public life.

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