A bright new future for a retail complex

An indoor shopping centre with the allure of an exclusive shopping gallery. De Heuvel in Eindhoven opened in 1992, inspired by the KÖ Gallery in Dusseldorf. The impressive complex of 100,000 m2 in the heart of the city centre is home to Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, Holland Casino, the largest parking garage in the city, apartments and offices. In recent years, de Heuvel has lost its appeal. Declining visitor numbers and low occupancy dulled a little of its lustre. Owner CBRE Global Investors wants to create a bright future for de Heuvel and turned to us for help: could we re-imagine the retail complex and give it a new lease on life?


The retail landscape has changed for good, and de Heuvel is eager to embrace the changes and reinvent itself. But how? There’s no off-the-peg solution. Recently, several experts sketched their possible future scenarios for de Heuvel, albeit from the same vantage point. But our strategy involves looking at the challenge from all sides, and imagining a variety of potential futures. The key question is: how can we reinvent de Heuvel once more where people like to come?


How can de Heuvel bounce back as an exciting destination? To find out, we need to look at the building from a radically new angle. And, more importantly, from an interdisciplinary approach. We work with experts from different fields, and stakeholders from the city, to create a new vision of the future. The plan won’t be set in stone for the indefinite future – our world is changing far too rapidly for that. This is where placetesting comes in: flexible experiments with initiatives to create a dynamic, efficient programming.


The starting points for placetesting are always a strategic vision for the future, and the identity of the place in question. To tackle this complex task we create a multidisciplinary expert team. In this case, an urban planner, a concept thinker, an innovation expert, a retail expert and a real estate specialist. Each takes a different approach to the same issue, and each knows Eindhoven well. Over several sessions, the team arrives a future vision for de Heuvel, based on broad research at macro, meso and micro level.  We formulate the core values of the place and consider a programming that ties in with the vision for the future. This process is fuelled by techniques from Design Thinking and the Lean Start Up method, paired with empathy, out-of-the-box thinking and not judging as important features. We mirror the findings to focus groups of policymakers and entrepreneurs. What do they think of the future vision and the programming? Where can these ideas be improved? And how do we give concrete form to the ambition?


Together with the expert team and the focus groups, a widely supported vision of the future has been developed. Now it’s time for plactesting. Inspired by the future vision, we choose the matching concepts, entrepreneurs and ideas. There is room for experiment, and failure. Ideas that work are kept. Initiatives that don’t succeed disappear. Placetesting gives entrepreneurs and social initiatives a chance, and gives visitors something new to experience each time they visit de Heuvel. This approach is a fantastic way to seed the new programming organically over the next 3 to 5 years, and will transform de Heuvel into a destination that people enjoy, and where they feel at home.


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