“Entertainment buildings are some of the most important and iconic any city can build. They become a source of pride and a hallmark for the quality of life they offer”David Manica
Entertainment venues were often seen as bad neighbours by city planners and residents — noisy, litter-strewn, antisocial and best banished to the outskirts of town. But their social value is being reappraised, as is the environmental cost of locating them in places that can only be reached by car.
“There are no buildings out in the middle of a parking lot any more,” says Gensler’s Ron Turner. “People understand that stadiums and arenas are destinations that create a footfall, and are therefore great for cities in terms of their longevity and sustainability, and from a transportation standpoint. It makes sense for these buildings to be in cities.”
Downtown destinations are also more likely to draw the punters. “At the end of the day, it’s not iPhones or Instagram we’re competing against, it’s time,” says Craig Hanna at Thinkwell. “So we have to create a new offering that is faster to get to and easier to consume. As densification continues, the future is multi-venue destinations in urban settings, which take less footprint.” Thinkwell’s Lionsgate Entertainment World in Hengqin, China, is a case in point — an indoor, vertical theme park with 30 attractions on 10 levels.
The future of entertainment
Welcome to a world of 24/7 stadiums, shape-shifting sports pitches, alternative-reality theme parks, and tours by dead rock stars. It’s going to be one hell of a ride …
Entertainment is an essential component of vibrant places, says Albert Paquette at A49 in Toronto. It has several major venues downtown, linked into the transit system and spilling out into public spaces, even when the game is elsewhere. Its Raptors basketball team secured their historic NBA win in California. But back home, the area outside Scotiabank Arena — known as “Jurassic Park” — became a focal point for fans, some queueing to secure a place in front of the big screen for 48 hours. “It was as active there as if the game was happening inside,” he says.
In smaller towns, multipurpose venues refresh the parts that other developments can’t reach: the 5,000-seat Meridian Centre in St Catharines, Ontario is on an awkward brownfield site 50ft below a main street. “They couldn’t get any commercial interest but now there’s this whole hub of sports and entertainment that has reactivated a street that was dying,” says Paquette.
“The arts have a huge role to play as community glue,” believes Robert O’Dowd, chief executive of the Rose Theatre Kingston, a 800-seat venue in outer London. “With the digitization of community life, where does the community meet now? Where are people bumping into each other, sharing experiences?” The Rose is one of those places: it has 100 volunteer ushers, the majority of them retirees, an active youth theatre group, and a cafe where various social activities take place.
But for O’Dowd, the most successful theatres are more than a meeting place — they go beyond their walls and engage directly with people in the street. “How theatres integrate into the cityscape is potentially the future of trade and commerce. Who still wants to just go shopping? Performance can turn town centres into experiential places.”
This is already happening, not just with culture but sport too. When venues are centrally located, it’s even more important that they are well used, and this drives more porous designs.
“I think the whole city should become a space for entertainment, where retail, performance and the city blend”Robert O’Dowd, Rose Theatre
Entertainment boosts property values
Office and retail space close to a new entertainment development commands a 20-30% rental premium.
Vacancy rates for more than 7,000 office buildings across the US show that occupation increases with proximity to an entertainment development.
Data: Cushman & Wakefield