Strengthening Local Centres: Addressing Residential Proximity, Retail Convenience and Urban Amenity within Neighbourhood Centres
This research develops a set of design criteria to direct the enhancement of residential proximity, retail convenience and urban amenity within neighbourhood centres. Neighbourhood centres are an important part of a city's infrastructure. They can provide service amenities for local residents, foster social interaction, create economic platforms for smaller businesses, provide nearby places of work and contribute to the local identity of their surrounding neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood centres create layers of intensity within our suburban fabric. Traditionally, neighbourhood centres served their local market catchment. Today, by contrast, there are many retail alternatives easily accessible to our mobile society. In New Zealand, these centres are often located in low density suburbs; if they are to maintain a level of patronage, they must compete to hold their local customers. In this study, three aspects of the retail experience – proximity, convenience and urban amenity – were identified as fundamental considerations in the selection of a retail environment. A literature survey was carried out to create an initial set of design criteria which outline the key priorities for these three research themes. Comparative analysis of three neighbourhood centres in Christchurch, and detailed analysis of one of these centres, informed a number of subsequent refinements to these criteria, making them more specific to the residential, retail convenience and urban characteristics of these centres. The Christchurch centre of Woolston was chosen as the site for a design case study, where the amended set of criteria directed the design of both a master plan and an individual building. Finally, the design outcomes were used to formulate a number of strategies which can be used to retrofit other centres, responding to their existing built fabric and suburban structure. These strategies include parking lanes, central orientation spaces, anchor structures, secondary streets and retail zones. These strategies ensure that neighbourhood centres can provide both residential proximity and retail convenience in such a way that enhances their urban amenity. Ultimately, this research provides strategies to develop neighbourhood centres as distinct, convenient and enjoyable places to work, live and visit.