A new role for Almere Buiten Centrum
In the 1970s, Almere Buiten Centrum shopping centre was created as the city’s second major urban nucleus. But times change. The current city council sees Almere Centrum as the heart of the city and rightly asks: what role can Almere Buiten Centrum play? What is the shopping centre’s future potential? In late 2018, local real estate owners – the municipality, entrepreneurs, real estate investors, housing corporations and MBO institution Almere – took part in a Round Table. They asked BRAND to develop a vision for the future, one that empowers Almere Buiten Centrum to reposition itself clearly – as clearly as ABC.
Online shopping, vacant buildings, corona: to face these challenges, shopping centres need to play to their strengths. But what are the strengths of Almere Buiten Centrum? What role can the centre play in the future? And, however captivating that vision may be, how do you make sure it becomes reality? How do you get stakeholders excited about the future? What steps can they take today to bring that future closer?
To succeed, a vision for the future must have broad-based support. That’s why we believed that Almere Buiten Centrum needed a vigorous participation process. All the keyholders were invited to share their ideas and get to work. The future vision (and ultimate positioning) had to be based on the (desired) identity of Almere Buiten Centrum. With the help of the Round Table and other stakeholders, we went in search of Almere Buiten Centrum’s DNA. And by working on the future vision collectively, and taking steps right away, something changed: the neighbourhood was reenergised! The local people spontaneously became ambassadors of the shopping centre.
We introduced the Almere Buiten Placegame, inspired by the format of the international Project for Public Spaces. We all visited Almere Buiten Centrum to ask key stakeholders – council officials, property owners, entrepreneurs, institutions, residents and students: what do you think of this place, why do you like (or not like) coming here, and how do you envisage the shopping mall’s future? Everyone agreed: Almere Buiten Centrum needs more greenery, and sheltered spots where people can sit and chat. And another discovery: what the shopping centre does best is the everyday. Almere Buiten Centrum doesn’t need to be grand and impressive; it should excel in providing small everyday essentials.
A vision for the future that is widely supported, and thus has a great chance of success. Through the dynamic participation process, together we discovered the strengths of Almere Buiten Centrum, the shopping district’s new role, and what the programme needed to focus on. In 2030, Almere Buiten Centrum will have more greenery, a high-quality range of shops and more cultural and social amenities. Our partner Studio for New Realities also created a spatial vision of the centre’s new role, an urban planning strategy for the future. What’s more, we translated the vision into an implementation agenda, for which we encouraged the property owners, entrepreneurs, institutions, and the municipality to come up with concrete action. The steps are all aimed at activating and mobilising the local community. In the next 10 years, local creatives, associations, and entrepreneurs can seize the opportunity to help turn Almere Buiten Centrum into an attractive place. A great example of branding by doing!