Character counts


Managing Director of Asset Management for Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Alison Clegg, argues that the human aspect of character is key to placemaking and will be essential to the recovery of destinations post-pandemic.

While the industry’s focus on the role of ‘purpose’ in place making is leading to fresh thinking in some quarters, there is a very human feature of places that is arguably more important, but often overlooked. In a post-pandemic world in which we need to encourage people to return to our cities, it may be more significant than ever: character.                                             

Character can be a hard to define, intangible aspect of a destination, yet its impact on perception, enjoyment of a place and loyalty are very real. It is a powerful and influential force that greatly shapes one’s experience.

As landlords, we must reflect on and respond to the increased importance of character.  

Most simply, we need to preserve it, but also ensure we build new places that have it.  Monolithic buildings, unwelcoming public realm, and soulless architecture are doing a disservice to not only what has gone before, but the very people for whom the place is for. 

We must seek to inspire, to create connections, to build places that become part of, and add to, the surrounding character. Places that stand the test of time, that become places people love and treasure, do just that. It is not always easy, but Liverpool ONE is thriving because its 30+ buildings, designed by 20+ architects, were conceived with character in mind, individually and collectively. 

 Liverpool ONE reflects the surrounding context, while at the same time adding to it.  It reconstituted existing streets in the city centre and retained features and references important to the Liverpool’s character.  Historic buildings have been retained, while new buildings respect views of the Three Graces on the waterfront.

And its success can be measured not just by its performance, or the performance of its occupiers, but by human sentiment.  It is no coincidence that, according to CACI, pre-pandemic Liverpool ONE was the UK destination that consumers would most highly recommend to others.  

Character is key, and the attribute that will drive the destination’s resurgence to new heights.

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