Hybrids Are Taking Over Our Masterplans

By Ben Martin

I am a real estate advisor. My job is to help people figure out what to develop. I listen to their vision, I look at the market, I run the numbers and I recommend a development programme accordingly.

Simple, right? Well not any more. It’s getting more complicated every day for people like me as free-thinking concept developers continue to rip up the rule books. I think it all started when Borders began to drop coffee bars into bookshops – and now it’s a free-for-all.

Like all good analysts, I love a Venn diagram. When you have two things that overlap to create a new thing in the middle, that’s perfection.  Take our bookshop analogy; on one side we have the humble bookshop, on the other we have the familiar coffee shop, and in the overlap we have the much-loved (and at one point pretty innovative) bookshop/coffee shop. The old Venn diagram even works well with three circles, take the football stadium that’s also a brand store for the club and a hotel; but any more land uses than that and your Venn diagram starts to look messy and simply isn’t up to the task.

Entertainment is now firmly embedded within your retail excursion – you don’t go to the mall simply to shop anymore, as you’ll probably do that on-line. No, you go there to maybe look at merchandise, but also to watch the live band playing in the food court or the people trying their hand at climbing the new ‘ice wall’ in the atrium or getting drenched on the new surf simulator.  It’s a ‘retailtainment’ experience.

Likewise, your wellness spa may include a hospital operating theatre; your residential apartment block may include shared ‘workspace’; your hotel may include a branded residential component; and your residential or yacht may function as a hotel, through platforms such as AirBnB or Beds on Board. Take cinemas as another example. They’re becoming more like Business-Class on a plane, with reclining seats, three-course meals and waiter service. Meanwhile, our front rooms have become more like cinemas with wide-screen, super-high-definition TVs and surround sound speaker systems.

Looking to the future, concept development will get even more interesting. Venue design, for example used to focus on creating a physical space for people to watch a performance, but in the world of esports you find people watching other people challenge one another in a virtual world where the vast majority of the spectators are actually online. Sure, you may still need the physical venue to hold the event (for now anyway), but the real design challenge will come in the concept development of the virtual world where the opportunities for creativity are utterly boundless and land-use definitions are much too simplistic.

So go ahead and smash the land uses together and see what you get. Experiment and try something new, it might become the next big ‘thing’. Ripping up the rule book is fun and who doesn’t love a bookshop where you can get a cup of coffee. Masterplans and land-use Venn diagrams — like life itself — used to be simple. But mixed-use development is here to stay and there are seemingly no limits as to what’s now being thrown into the blender. I’m excited about that, aren’t you? Get Ready Player One!

Ben Martin

Ben Martin is the lead for Real Estate Consulting for HKS, responsible for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Ben has 23-years’ experience in consulting focusing on a mix of integrated mixed-use projects, resort development, marinas and waterfronts, branded residential schemes, visitor attractions, hotels and golf studies.