How ground plane strategy can impact new development

Cre­at­ing a sense of arrival long before the front door

The arti­cle rep­re­sents sub­jec­tive opin­ions of Hines Inter­ests Lim­it­ed Part­ner­ship (“Hines”)1, the spon­sor of invest­ment vehi­cles offered by Hines Secu­ri­ties, Inc. (“Hines Secu­ri­ties”). Oth­er mar­ket par­tic­i­pants may rea­son­ably have dif­fer­ing opinions. 

The stakes are often high when devel­op­ing dynam­ic mixed-use projects, large down­town office tow­ers and mod­ern sports venues. In fact, impres­sions can be born in the first 40 feet of experience—where the build­ing meets the ground. Hines believes the chal­lenge fac­ing own­ers and man­agers is how to devel­op that first impres­sion, cre­at­ing expe­ri­ences that cap­i­tal­ize on the phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es of a loca­tion while also cul­ti­vat­ing pos­i­tive inter­ac­tions with the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Hines strives for a result that pro­motes a sense of place steeped in com­fort and hospitality.

Walk this way 

Think of a busy street and a few dozen pedes­tri­ans. Each person—an office work­er, a res­i­dent, a shop­per, or some­one tak­ing a stroll around the neighborhood—has expec­ta­tions about the sur­round­ing built envi­ron­ment. Every struc­ture they encounter is part of a broad­er social ecosys­tem that con­tributes to human immer­sion, well­ness, and fulfilment.

Archi­tec­tur­al solu­tions alone—which pro­vide form, func­tion, and visu­al inter­est above ground level—don’t always impact how a per­son feels when mov­ing in front of, around and through a build­ing. Hines views the ground plane expe­ri­ence as high­light­ing the need to bal­ance nat­ur­al attrib­ut­es with curat­ed design that encour­ages human acti­va­tion and immersion.

With an in-ground plane strat­e­gy, details are essential—things like land­scap­ing, pub­lic art instal­la­tions, out­door space acti­va­tions, open space, vehic­u­lar move­ment, light­ing and sig­nage, door place­ments and more—all impact the imme­di­ate human expe­ri­ence. That’s why Hines believes it’s so impor­tant to have a strate­gic, well-thought-out approach to the ground plane design long before a shov­el hits the ground.

40′ of opportunity 

Ground plane strat­e­gy is com­plex because mul­ti­ple fac­tors are dif­fi­cult to con­trol. In addi­tion to the first 40 feet, the plan­ners must give focused atten­tion to the entire arrival expe­ri­ence. But how far does that influ­ence extend? Hines believes inte­grat­ing pub­lic access points like alley­ways and cross­walks into the over­all ground plane approach can help to give pedes­tri­ans a con­sis­tent­ly themed and pleas­ant journey—and boost the property’s desirability.

But how do you influ­ence spaces locat­ed with­in the pub­lic domain? Hines taps local infra­struc­ture net­works to improve the user expe­ri­ence above and below ground by encour­ag­ing move­ment in and around its devel­op­ments. By part­ner­ing with munic­i­pal­i­ties, the intent is to ensure the right infra­struc­ture is in place to act as a crit­i­cal gate­way to the development.

Expe­ri­en­tial lead­ers in Hines’ Con­cep­tu­al Con­struc­tion Group seek to exploit the poten­tial of space between build­ings. In one project, the plan­ners were inspired to devel­op themed pas­sages, mov­ing from the park­ing garage to a cen­tral lawn to more than 2.5 mil­lion square feet of mixed-use build­ings. The urban, pedes­tri­an-focused expe­ri­ence now fea­tures sev­en dis­tinct­ly designed paseos (alley­ways) that lead to active restau­rant patios, var­ied store­fronts, gath­er­ing areas pro­grammed with events, and land­scapes and hard­scapes that con­tribute to the street-lev­el energy.

Connection and authenticity 

The func­tion­al­i­ty of spaces con­tin­ues to blur, and large cities and the devel­op­ments with­in them are scram­bling to find a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. Hines sees the answer as an inno­v­a­tive and con­sis­tent ground plane strat­e­gy that brings a dis­tinct, cus­tomer-cen­tric and authen­tic brand expe­ri­ence to the prop­er­ty and the sur­round­ing areas. This pow­er­ful plan­ning tool can deliv­er spaces where peo­ple want to be, with human inter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ty con­nec­tion com­ing along for the ride.