Since the postwar era, a demographic tidal wave has pushed populations in urban areas to the highest levels in the country’s history. Four-fifths of Americans now live in cities. As cities grow and densify to accommodate this demographic tidal wave, large urban sports and entertainment venues have found themselves cast as the centerpiece of a new trend in mixed-use design: sports and entertainment-oriented development.
These districts often come with inherent strengths such as robust infrastructure, well-established transit connectivity and strong neighborhood identity tied to a hallowed local sports franchise. Municipalities, developers and architects are capitalizing on these strengths, combining housing, retail, office and, of course, sports and entertainment into new destination neighborhoods.
There are several successful examples of these sports and entertainment-oriented developments in place, and many more being planned or realized around the country. Along with their inherent attributes, they come with unique design challenges and opportunities when providing a residential component. As the architect for several sports and entertainment-oriented developments, our firm employs a series of design strategies that permeate successful projects.
1. The elastic neighborhood. With 40,000 or more visitors, the energy of a ballgame or concert is the driving force of a vital sports and entertainment-oriented development. It is imperative to plan a development that encourages and supports the vigor and energy of this swell of visitors, while also addressing the desire for the daily inhabitants to feel at home by building an identity that supersedes sports or entertainment.
Two Light in Kansas City, Missouri, is situated in the heart of the vibrant Power and Light District, home to several entertainment venues including KC Live!, the Sprint Center and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. With hundreds of events annually, the district is regularly filled with sports and theater patrons. This supports the vibrant mix of food and beverage options in the neighborhood that are part of the appeal of living at Two Light, but residents have their own private amenities eight stories above the street: a private indoor spa, flexible lounge and bar spaces, an infinity-edge pool, and a belvedere overlooking the district. These allow the residents to feel at home while being connected to the larger city.
2. Broad appeal. Achieving high occupancy rates requires a studied understanding of the various demographics that the district and the project will attract, including superfans who will want to be at the center of the action, millennials who will be drawn by valued experiences and socialization, empty-nesters who desire walkability and built-in events and activities, and office tenants and retailers who will see the value of game day goers and the daily consumers.
The Kelvin + eNvy at the front gate of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., has a very robust retail mix and is a case study in addressing a broad cross section of the demographic market attracted to sports-oriented neighborhoods. To build in flexibility and diversity of product, the project was designed with a double identity. Each wing of the building has its own lobby, amenities and brand.
The Kelvin offers market-rate rental apartments, and eNvy offers for sale condominiums. The two were designed with interior connections at the lobby mezzanine and rooftop amenity levels so that they could operate as a unified building or be subdivided into discreet communities with separate ownership. The Kelvin is designed to appeal to a younger audience who wants to be part of the festival atmosphere, with smaller residential units and more roommate plans. The architecture is more exuberant with multiple glass corners, balconies and private terraces engaging the street. The eNvy appeals to a more mature resident, with elevated finishes and a more reserved façade and sophisticated interior design.
3. Camera ready. The media exposure of professional sports presents unique and potentially lucrative opportunities for branding and sponsorship. Careful forethought produces strategies that add value at many scales: from the subtle integration of the story and legacy of a beloved home team into the identity of a multifamily residential building, to the careful integration of advertising and sponsorship moments that capture eyeballs and television cameras throughout the district.
One Cardinal Way in St. Louis is located just outside of Busch Stadium’s centerfield. Like The Kelvin + eNvy, the tower has a dual identity, with the southern edge addressing the activity of the ballpark, and the northern edge, on a quiet neighborhood street, hosting amenity-focused retail and the residential front door. The prominence of the building from inside the ballpark influenced several major aspects of the architectural design. The tower is sculpted to maximize views from the residential units and to create an iconic and dynamic form. The architecture creates opportunities both for branding and sponsorship at the top where it will catch the gaze of the infield cameras and the blimp cams, to say nothing of the 45,000 fans in the park, as well as at the base where additional opportunities for large-scale graphics and advertising tie the architecture seamlessly into that of the ballpark.
Denver is joining the trend with the ongoing implementation of the masterplan of the National Western Center and the new mixed-use developments underway near Coors Field, but with Denver’s continued growth, tremendous opportunity still exists. Through thoughtful design strategies, these projects connect the lives of the residents to their energetic surroundings, offering uniquely vibrant amenities just steps from their front door. They also serve to integrate their centerpiece, whether a ballpark, arena or theater, into the larger city by giving the surrounding district a life beyond the big event. The result is a triple win, creating value for the city, the developer and the residents of this exciting new generation of neighborhood.