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You live and die by your first phase

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3 minute read

A new development has one chance at its first impression: the place experience of the first phase will set the trajectory for future phases – and their values.

In real estate companies, phasing is the domain of financial teams tasked with managing cashflow, and construction teams who balance on-time project deliverability with staging, infrastructure and other enabling works.

But phasing, in its evolving offer and audience, will also create many different places over the time. At Wordsearch Place, we focus on Staged Placemaking instead of phasing to think about place strategically over time: making sure that projects make sense every step of the way, that resident and tenant needs are served, that new place experiences are brought on stream in a timely way to support marketing and communication efforts, and – critically – that place programming delivers increased values.

In Staged Placemaking, no time matters more than your Pioneer Phase – what we call a development’s meanwhile uses through to Phase One completion. This Pioneer place offer, and subsequently Phase One, will become a living marketing suite for all future sales and leasing – a trailer to the development movie. It will establish the long-term value threshold and act as a benchmark for a development’s future phases. Getting this first impression right is critical: developers must invest in ensuring a strong opening.

Rolling out place vision can – and should – begin months or even years before Phase One opens. By deploying meanwhile and nursery activities, developments build place traction early and create additional value in advance of opening. Meanwhile uses help new development by:

• Building profile – for the development, and the development team

• Seeding a place culture and identity, and maximising the public experience of the site – creating an audience for Phase One

• Using experiential marketing and activity in lieu of traditional advertising spend – delivering on the place proposition, instead of just promising it on paper

• Securing office lettings, and selling or pre-letting residential – in advance of completion

• Identifying ground floor tenancies who are in place at the time of opening – without traditional empty-unit lag

• Incubating and testing site curation and programming ideas and partnerships – often without significant time or capital commitments

• Honing the place management skills of the development team through pre-opening meanwhile uses and programming – ensuring the team is well-equipped when Phase One opens

Then, the place promise made through meanwhile and nursery activities must be reflected in the place experience of Phase One.

Wordsearch Place works with development teams to deliver strategies which help to realise compelling place offers throughout the Pioneer phase. This begins with meanwhile activation and is fully realised through Phase One strategy, including ground floor use planning, investment analysis, footfall requirements, illustrative programming, and organisational structure.

You live and die by your first phase – so what will you do to ensure an amazing place experience from your development’s Day One?

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