Retail streets are an ancient form of shopping zones for people worldwide. These are in fact, the liveliest part of a town or a city, people of different age groups, and interests like to spend time on such streets. These are technically a row or cluster of individual shops, grouped at a place so that people would find it easy to commute on their feet. But where people come together, is a place to foster community relations and these markets are the best options for this, yes, even better than malls. Designing such a street demands our best to make it a user-friendly zone, which satisfies everyone using it, the costumers, the shop-owners, the passers-by, and the whole environment it builds around it. To make these streets attract people, we need something more than its function. 

Uniqueness in Uniformity– A major factor that defines shopping streets is the linear array of similar shops that run along the street. But each shop would demand its unique branding technique by creating different kinds of facades, which may lead to a haphazard arrangement. To make a street look attractive, we need to keep the building materials uniform, while giving different areas on the surface for branding and identity, satisfying the retailers too. This street in Toronto- 1986, Queen Street East, shows how the traditional brick wall makes up the street-side structure, while different brands are still being able to make their mark.

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Designing a retail street ©


Access to the street – Access to the retail street should always be convenient. Means like public transit systems and cycling lanes provide visitors with an easy option to reach the shops. The lanes should be clear and the transit system should have a maximum possible number of stops. Swanston Street, Melbourne has a 24% increase in retail volume after adding more transit stops. 

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Designing a retail street ©
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Designing a retail street ©

Parking facilities– According to Allan Jacobs, “Great streets are where pedestrians and drivers get along”. Those who won’t use the public transit system will need proper space to park their vehicles. The cycle stands and car parking zones should be near the shops, they can be beside the shops, in front of them, behind, above, or below them. To screen the parking from shops, trees could be used. Also, the parking should be designed realistically, if a street has good access to public transit, the parking area could be less. This picture of Alexandria, Virginia is a good example of how the parking area could be placed.

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Designing a retail street ©


Honor the Pedestrian’s comfort– Most of the visitors coming would be pedestrians, thus it’s important to give them a comfortable space to move along. According to Toronto Retail Design Manual, there should be 4 zones for a good sidewalk,

  1. Frontage and marketing zone with tenant facilities,
  2. Wide pedestrian clearway, 
  3. Plantation zone, and 
  4. Edge zone.

Also, canopies and overhangs or shadowing trees should be provided for shade. This image shows a street in the Hamptons, Southamptons, New York, which is a perfect example of a comfortable and walk-able sidewalk.

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Designing a retail street ©
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Designing a retail street ©

Pedestrian realm – To make sure the pedestrians don’t get bored, an attractive pedestrian realm should be created. Marking the end of a street using a small park, a statue, or seating facility gets people out of boredom of walking on the monotonous activity of walking, this is called anchoring. Facilities like restrooms and cafes make the streets more engaging. This leads to an increase in pedestrian traffic, giving more nighttime security. This park-let called Intelligentsia Parklet in 2855, West Diversey Avenue, Chicago attracts customers to sit and relax in their shopping hours. 

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Designing a retail street ©

Site context- Selecting a proper location for the street is important too. No one would like to come to a lonely area in the outskirts for shopping. A residential neighborhood is always beneficial, as it has a population to visit regularly, and the crowd makes it safer. The Villages, in Florida, was specially designed for a retirement colony and is a great center for shopping. 

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Designing a retail street ©


Visual enhancement – To make the streets visually appealing, trees and lighting play an irreplaceable role. Lighting helps extend the day into night, thus proper lighting helps in better vision when dark, and adds a sense of security for the customers. Transparency in facades helps reflect the inviting nature of a shop. The greenery gives our eyes rest from the concrete or brick structures, but it should be cleverly placed to not hinder the visibility of pedestrians onto the street and vehicles. This street on Delray Beach, Florida, shows how the street could be made catchier.

Managing other functions – Receiving goods and loading them into shops is another activity taking place in a shop. To prevent the clashing of the customers and the shipping activities, multiple entrances or doorways could be provided. The back of the shops may have mechanical equipment on its face. This other side of the street may look dull. In this image of West 50th street of New York, planters and grills are employed to hide the undesired details.

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Designing a retail street ©


Safer movement– The streets have pedestrians, trees, furniture, vehicles, pets, kids, and whatnot. To make the movement on the streets safer, signage is very important. Retail arcades are streets turning into malls through an arcade and these are very effective in controlling pedestrian movement. This picture of Red Bank Borough in New Jersey shows how markings help control pedestrian traffic.

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Designing a retail street ©


Clean, secure, and environment-friendly space– This rule applies to every public space. The shops could be equipped with fittings like shutters for security. The materials used should be low-maintenance and environmental-friendly like solar-powered street lamps and waterproof LED lamps. The furniture and other facilities could be made with keeping the differently-abled people in mind, and more spacious areas would add up to a cleaner image of the street. Haarlemmerstraat is this street in Amsterdam which is spacious and clean which makes it even more attractive. 

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Designing a retail street ©

These guidelines will attract more and more pedestrian traffic. The aim isn’t to create just a retail street, but also a unique experience that will make the visitors come back. 


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