5 Things You Need to Know About Retail


Interactivity Plays a Large Role in Attractivity

555 Herndon Parkway, open lawn space

Blurring the line between shopping centers and parks could better serve retail tenants and the general public, as well as the developer. Deloitte reports that as consumer expectations evolve, convenience is being stressed as a necessary component. In site design, convenience can be accomplished by creating a balance of uses within one development that can serve shoppers more holistically. Some of the most successful retail environments are ones that can bring something unique to the table, whether it be outdoor entertainment, opportunity for exploration, historic charm or simple open lawn space. The small act of painting an exterior wall with a unique mural that people take Instagram photos in front of has led to the transformation of entire neighborhoods.

 BMP Facilities and Transformers Need Pre-planning

For mixed-use developments in urban jurisdictions such as the City of Alexandria, it is important to plan early in the project where the Best Management Practices (BMP) facilities and transformers need to be placed. In the City, these devices must be placed on private property and be accessible from the street. Many times, this can conflict with the best places to locate a storefront, thus making the design and integration of these devices an important part of the site layout. By planning ahead and strategically placing these devices, it can turn something that might look like an afterthought into an amenity space that can help supplement the retail and overall project.

Drive-thrus Must Be Convenient and Unintrusive

It is important to understand and plan appropriately for vehicular access. Ensuring that cars can get into the site can make a difference on how well the retail center operates after construction. For instance, drive-thrus can impede the flow of traffic, so they must intently be incorporated into a site layout so traffic does not back up on other streets or create a safety issue. On one of our suburban projects, we designed a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru in Gainesville, VA, to wrap around the back of the strip retail building. By doing so, the drive-thru was still accessible to patrons but did not block access to the rest of the retail spaces.

Brand Specific Requirements Can Affect Site Design

When preparing a plan, brand specific design requirements play an important role in the design of the site. For example, our clients at Sheetz and WaWa require design elements that exceed local requirements in some jurisdictions. A challenge we see often is the amount or size of parking spaces desired. Knowing and understanding the brand requirements upfront is crucial to see if the site is feasible for that particular project. It will save the client’s time if we know right away if the layout needs to be revised to fit within their brand specific design requirements.

Multiple Building Pads Should Consider Subdivision

Lexington 7, Loudoun County, VA
Rendering by Bignell Watkins Hasser Architects

When developing shopping centers with multiple building pads in Loudoun County and other suburban environments, it’s a good idea to consider possible future subdivision of the building pads. If the initial layout is designed with potential future tenants in mind, even if you don’t plan to subdivide at the time of development, you’re saving yourself some hassle down the line. As some commercial zones have a minimum lot area, or may be split zoned with required internal setbacks, it could prevent the ability for future subdivision. Considering subdivision at project inception allows for the most ideal tenant opportunities.

Subject Matter Expertise contributors

Colin McCann, RLA (Planning and Landscape Architecture Division)
Eli Goldman, PE (Urban Land Division)
Chris Lemon, PE (Suburban Land Division)
Tucker Travis (Suburban Land Division)