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Authentic Synergized Design in the Live Work Play Environment

Live, Work, Play developments will dictate the future of urban and suburban planning. Image © Gensler

Current development practices have taken a marked turn away from putting all the proverbial “eggs in one basket” and are now focused on diversification and “placemaking.” Though the word is a bit overused in today’s master planning lexicon, placemaking describes the positive results that can arise from an authentic Live, Work, Play oriented project.

Live, Work, Play (LWP) is a popular topic within real estate periodicals and organizations. According to Emerging Trends in Real Estate, published by the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers, “LWP is statistically significant – compact, connected, walkable, relatively dense mixed-use/multi-use, primarily employment oriented sites.” It’s a concept that’s here to stay, and it behooves designers and developers to understand its origins and the ramifications it holds.

The New Amenity-Driven Workplace

The common denominator in most current mixed-use developments is the presence of greater flexibility and a variety of office spaces, both of which help new workplaces attract and retain talent. By placing entertainment, retail, food and beverage facilities just outside the office walls, companies can create their own walkable communities. Add to this a measured amount and varied selection of residential offerings, and the result is what has come to be known as the “18 Hour City.”

There is definitely a recipe for developing a successful amenity-driven workplace, and just like any great dish, it starts with the basics. Well-amenitized developments reflect an intelligent lifestyle – a combination of personal experience and personal exposure. Wellness attitudes influence the collection of amenities, often culminating in a hospitality/resort type of look and feel.

Companies favor amenity-rich places that include other commercial, residential and civic facilities. Many developers favor employment-oriented town centers, suburban mixed-use redevelopments, single-use office parks and retail centers reimagined as LWP districts (such as the former Town + Country Mall, repurposed as City Center in Suburban Houston).

Developers also seek out business-friendly municipalities, good infrastructure cores and places with proven job growth.

Even corporate campuses are adapting elements of Live, Work, Play. Image © Gensler

Broad Spectrum of Expertise

So what does this mean for the design community? First, it means that these developments cut across several practice areas. Not only does a good LWP project require state-of-the-art workplace planning and design, it needs top commercial office building architecture and design talent. Pair that with mixed-use master planning and expertise in the practice areas of retail, hospitality, food and beverage and multi-family residential, and you have the remainder of the puzzle.

Such Design Synergy provides the right context from which a team of experts can intelligently plan and execute the most complex mixed-use development projects. Many of these projects are the logical evolution of corporate clients desire to create amenitized communities for their employees—communities anchored by a hospitality component, connected by mass transit and informed by an attitude reflecting the pursuit of health and wellness.

Location Location Location

It is providential that the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex is ranked the number one city in the U.S. for LWP development (Austin being number two). Key parcels of land have been set aside in the suburban marketplace for very large developments of this type. Statistics show that a high majority of suburban development is LWP oriented versus single use.

Gensler has been instrumental in the master planning and architecture for developments such as Legacy West, The Gate, The Star and more, all in the suburban marketplace. What these developments have in common is the masterful collaboration of creative minds across retail, restaurants, hospitality, sports, commercial office buildings, and workplace, orchestrated as holistic master plans to create authentic community.

Synergy and Total Collaboration

The best LWP projects result from a kind of collaboration that occurs alongside the client and consultant teams in the form of workshops and charrettes. This hands-on approach has helped Dallas-Ft. Worth’s development community enhance the outcomes of these projects and create a level of ownership participation. Good design teams act as the “conductor” of these sessions, providing leadership over many different disciplines involved in the process. The real synergy takes place when the master plan becomes project reality and the team not only designs the parts and pieces but produces the final project, documented and delivered.

Interestingly, as identified by the NAIOP Research Foundation, cities with strong CBD’s (mostly in larger office markets with transit services) are more dominant in their urban core development, while cities with weaker CBD’s have stronger suburban LWP developments. Dallas is the anomaly with its increasingly vibrant CBD (Uptown and Victory included) and its equally prolific suburban LWP master planned developments.

This means Dallas is uniquely poised to add suburban LWP projects as well as urban core infill projects that also reflect LWP orientation. The future for LWP in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area is bright.

Tom Philippi is a design director in Gensler Dallas lifestyle studio. Contact him at tom_philippi@gensler.com.

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