Urban Retail: Essential Planning, Design, and Management Practices

Course - MAIN IMAGE SLIDE - Urban Retail

  • Urban Retail:
    Best Practices for Cities and Town Centers

    Returning 2021
    Harvard University Campus

Program Description

Now in its twenty-third year, this fast-paced program is one of Harvard’s most popular and longest running executive education urban planning and real estate classes.  The session examines the proven planning approaches, retail design and merchandising principles necessary for the creation urban retail in cities and new town centers. This includes tactics used by leading retail developers and considers how they can be applied to a variety of urban settings. Retailing—the exchange of goods, services, and experiences—is in the midst of change unprecedented in modern times. The class includes numerous guest speakers who have managed or developed some of the most successful and innovative cities and Post-War walkable town centers.

Course Description - Urban Retail

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Many recent expensive efforts to revitalize downtowns or build new centers have failed because the adopted design and planning recommendations along with poor implementation approaches hurt commerce. New and old towns need intelligent strategies for the survival of their commercial life. Sustainable development and vibrant community life are impossible without these strategies. In this program, we will explore the practical science of analyzing and adjusting all elements known to affect a shopper's mood in the marketplace, and how that informs design and development principles for reviving retail in declining downtowns and for establishing viable commerce in new ones.

Other particular areas of focus will include:

  • The best practices for programing sustainable urban retail centers and repositioning failed suburban malls.
  • Proven planning and design practices for walkable retail centers including: architecture, parking, parks, streetscape and tenant mix.
  • The fundamentals of retail market research and site selection criteria by each retail category and many national retail tenants.
  • An introduction to consumer psychographics, and how this field leads to an understanding of and exerts influence consumer behavior.
  • An insider’s view for planning and managing resort and tourist retail destinations and resorts.
  • An optional tour and analysis of the evolving retail district of Harvard Square.
  • Modern industry standards for retail visual merchandising, storefront and signage.
  • The expanding importance of food in its many forms in the creation and sustainability of retail places.
  • International trends and opportunities, and the connections universally shared among great retail places around the globe.

Course - Who Should Attend - Urban Retail

Who Should Attend

Architects, city officials, institutional lenders, policy makers, real estate investment trusts, policy makers, residential and commercial real estate developers, retailers and urban planners.

Course - Areas of Focus - Urban Retail

Learning Objectives

  • The public’s increasing desire for walkable and connected environments, the health benefits associated with them, and the keys to delivering them within the modern commercial development environment.
  • The use of WalkScore by investors in evaluating the value and desirability of real estate.
  • The art and science of crafting mixed-use environments to take advantage of shared parking formulas in order to reduce the total number of parking spaces constructed.
  • The emerging impact of ride share (such as Uber and Lyft) to further reduce the number of parking spaces provided.
  • The environmental impact of mixed-use districts upon reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) through Internal Trip Capture (ITC) paired with walkability measures.
  • Particular requirements for retail uses in Transit Oriented Design (TOD) districts.
  • Market trends of retailers the value walkable, urban environments.
  • Do’s and don’ts in designing mixed-use and/or pedestrian-oriented commercial districts during the transition from auto-dominated requirements by retailers.
  • The benefits of form-based codes, and the pitfalls to avoid in crafting them.
  • The increasing sensitivity to environmental issues by the world’s consumers, and how retailers and developers can address this reality and save money and the environment in the process.

Course - Testimonial - Urban Retail

"Probably the most entertaining and instructive program I have experienced at Harvard [GSD] Executive Education."

"Fantastic presentation--with organized and timely information. Bob [Gibbs] is an incredible lecturer."

"Terry [Shook] is a great presenter with an amazing command of the perspectives and psychological factors that drive retail decisions."

Guest Speakers (Past)

Bobby Boone
Small Business/Retail Attraction Manager, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
Louis Marquet
Vice President, Leyland Alliance
Eldon Scott
Director, Urban Space Management
David Williams
Executive Vice President of Architecture and Planning, Caruso Affiliated