AFL Architects | 3 Key Insights from ‘At Your Leisure: Ingredients…
Press enter to search

3 Key Insights from ‘At Your Leisure: Ingredients for Successful Destination Creation’ - AFL's UKREiiF 2024 Panel

← Back to news & insight

Our team learned some invaluable insights from the AFL sponsored panel at UKREiiF this year - ‘At your leisure: Ingredients for successful destination creation’.

The discussion looked into the myriad of ways urban centers are enhancing their appeal, AFL’s John Roberts and our panel of industry experts shared their unique experiences and perspectives on successful destination development. We’ve distilled the key insights from the session and explored how they contribute to creating vibrant, thriving destinations.

Collaboration is Key

One of the resounding themes of the panel session was the critical importance of collaboration in successful destination development. The panellists unanimously agreed that partnerships are fundamental, as city leaders work collectively to drive growth and position their regions as significant economic powerhouses. Successful projects are often born from strong, synergistic partnerships.

Anna Bensky from Peel Land highlighted how central partnerships are to their initiatives, involving anchor tenants and collaborating with local councils. The shared vision and common goals among collaborators significantly enhance the success of projects. This collaborative spirit extends beyond key partners to include the local community and employers, fostering a unified vision for building vibrant destinations.

With local authorities facing budget cuts, there's an increasing reliance on collaborative efforts to deliver projects. Flexibility and cooperation among all parties are crucial. Aberdeen City Council’s Craig Innes emphasized that engaging young people through workshops is a key aspect of their successful partnership strategy. This engagement helps push developments further by involving developers and designers early in the process.

Multi-Use Spaces

The utilization of multi-use spaces in towns and cities was another crucial point discussed in relation to enhancing destination creation. Warren Taylor from City Heart emphasized how cinemas are becoming pivotal in creating footfall, contributing to the reinvention of the high street from purely retail to leisure-focused spaces. Modern cinemas are evolving into multifunctional spaces featuring smaller screens, large IMAX screens and integrated options like food, hotels, arcades and other leisure activities. This transformation turns traditional cinemas into comprehensive leisure hubs capable of hosting large-scale events such as weddings and conferences.

This multi-functional approach has helped cinemas adapt to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and actors' strikes, which have significantly impacted the industry in recent years. Alistair Aldridge from Wrexham Council reinforced the importance of mixed-use schemes, stating that despite being challenging for developers, they offer the best approach to delivering regeneration schemes due to the diverse options they present.

The Impact of Leisure Developments

Leisure developments, particularly cultural spaces, play a vital role in the aforementioned regeneration schemes, as discussed by AFL’s John Roberts. The success of Hull’s Bonus Arena and the Swansea Arena were highlighted as examples of how cultural centers can increase footfall in city centre's and boost the local economy. Hull, for instance, has seen a rise in weekday overnight stays due to the arena, benefiting adjacent retail and aiding in city centre regeneration.

The panelists reinforced the importance of a well-crafted business plan for developing leisure facilities, with a clear understanding of the necessary scale. The model of 3,500 to 5,000 capacity arenas is becoming increasingly popular and replicable, driving both economic and cultural regeneration. However, the panel cautioned that it isn't merely a case of "build it and they will come"; there must be demonstrable demand from the community.

These insights from the UKREiiF 2024 AFL panel event stress the importance of collaboration, multi-use spaces and well-planned leisure developments in successful destination creation. By fostering strong partnerships, embracing multifunctional spaces and strategically developing cultural hubs, urban centers can significantly enhance their appeal, driving economic growth and vibrant community life. As our towns and cities continue to evolve, these ingredients will be crucial in crafting destinations that thrive and flourish.