Social spaces ‘on the rise’

2018-05-29 06:00
“Third spaces” allow people to interact with their surroundings and are increasingly being used in the retail industry to bring together the sale of goods and services with social engagement. PHOTO: Ed Suter/ CCID

“Third spaces” allow people to interact with their surroundings and are increasingly being used in the retail industry to bring together the sale of goods and services with social engagement. PHOTO: Ed Suter/ CCID

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The food industry in the Central City is booming, and the rise has been linked to the need for a social haven for those living a downtown lifestyle.

The Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) recently released their State of the Cape Town Central City Report: A Year in Review – 2017, which noted the increase in “third spaces” in the CBD area.

As the move towards a “downtown” lifestyle has continued to grow, residents are moving away from the bigger homes found in suburbia. This has seen the rise of a need for public-friendly spaces where people can interact, referred to as “third spaces”, the report states.

These spaces allow people to interact with their surroundings and are increasingly being used in the retail industry to bring together the sale of goods and services with social engagement.

Following on this trend, it is envisioned that anchor tenants will no longer be large chain stores, but rather spaces where people can meet and be entertained, such as gyms, restaurants, markets, galleries, theatres and the like, the report states.

“Third space is that all-important space between work and home, where you ‘relax’,” explains author of the report and CCID spokesperson, Carola Koblitz.

“People who live in suburbs can get this from their own gardens, or have homes large enough in which they can entertain for instance, or they have urban parks in their neighbourhood, but in a densifying downtown, where apartments are smaller and gardens pretty much non-existent, you need to seek this ‘third space’ from other venues and thus the quality of those venues and accessibility to them speaks enormously to the quality of life you live in a downtown. Indeed, the whole attraction about living downtown is that, while you have to sacrifice both personal indoor and outdoor space, you live in close proximity to options that will provide you with alternatives.”

Cafes and restaurants are the Central City’s primary third space, the report finds, and the number of them is increasing.

In 2014, 64% of residents who took part in the CCID’s Central City residential survey said they eat out on a weekly basis. In the latest report, this had increased to 73% of respondents. In addition, 82% of respondents in the survey said they visited coffee shops at least once a week.

Bars, clubs, eateries and takeaways make up the bulk of the retail offerings in the Central City, the report found.

Koblitz adds: “In 2016, we had a total number of 209 eateries and in 2017 this had risen to 225. While this is not an enormous increase, it is the first year that we have actually seen an increase. If you break this down further, you notice that we have had an increase in the number of takeaway establishments (from 44 in 2016 to 61 in 2017), as well as a significant rise in coffee shops (from 34 in 2016 to 50 in 2017). What we believe this demonstrates is that the range of food options is definitely changing, and the variety of what’s available is greater.”

But it’s not just the food industry embracing the idea of a third space, says Koblitz, with a number of retail options starting to diversify to include this.

“It is definitely a trend that is starting to catch on and it depends on retailers creating customer experiences – often multiple experiences in one venue – rather than just carrying stock. Other examples include a restaurant that is also a tattoo parlour, wine merchants that also sell meals, laundries where you can eat dim sum, drink great wine or coffee and even purchase art, barbers that are also bars, bicycle rental and purchase outlets that are also coffee/wine shops, bars that also sell clothes and service motorcycles, art galleries that also serve meals and hold evening dance classes, and a bookstore that regularly holds launches and does story readings for children on a Saturday morning. These are destinations designed specifically to make you linger longer and enjoy a variety of offerings over and above you just spending a few minutes inside them to make a quick purchase.”

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