8 Place Prompts for Public Space Programming

Everyone is an expert in place. We all experience city life: visiting festivals, engaging in our community, using neighbourhood parks and public spaces, and happily stumbling upon events.

So, when it comes to programming real estate projects, everyone across the team will have great ideas and passionate opinions of what could happen in a place: “I saw this during the weekend, we should definitely do it here”. The long list every project team will organically collect is a brilliant springboard – but the real magic in utilising public space programming for inclusion, community building, market demand and value creation comes from moving from what you could do, to what you should do.

At MurrayTwohig, programming and activation strategy features in most of our project portfolio: from masterplanned developments like Boston’s Suffolk Downs, where we helped HYM to define their 160-acre site with three new neighbourhoods and a park, whilst developing approaches to phasing, ground floor use, public space and meanwhile uses; to reimagined assets such as Kensington’s Olympia, where we looked forward with client Yoo Capital to the next chapter of an iconic cultural landmark, with a place curation, activation and positioning strategy to support its expanded destination offer, new office space and continued success as a top London venue.

To help our clients deliver vision-aligned and value-creating public space programming, we’re sharing our 8 ‘Ps’ of public space programming here, which underpin our approach.


This is your overarching purpose, your guiding north star, which determines the direction of your programming content.

At all times, lead with the question: ‘how is this programming helping us to achieve our vision for this place?’


Real estate teams need a structure and lens through which to consider events, to understand how an idea serves the project and warrants spending time and resources.

The key themes which guide programming types or streams should be informed by a list of ‘activation objectives’, with a proposed programming idea supporting multiple objectives to move forward into planning.


These are the primary indoor and outdoor spaces for hosting the activation calendar. It is advantageous to have platforms of different scales and environments, to accommodate a wide range of programming.

Critically, they should be ‘plug and play’: suitably enabled with the necessary infrastructure, such as having power, accessible washrooms, storage and the ability to control access for private, ticketed or capacity-restricted events.


Many people on a real estate project’s internal team will be involved in programming in different ways, such as Legal, Finance and Construction.

The most successful places with public space programming also have dedicated staff whose role is centred specifically on activation: curating the calendar of events, connecting with external partners, championing programming considerations to design and construction teams, and overseeing the successful execution of events.


These are the external parties who a real estate team provides platforms and mechanisms to, with these partners delivering curated content.

Rather than bringing everything in-house, working with partners keeps teams nimble. Even better, a partnership approach taps into deep and diverse talent looking to bring content to an audience, which often brings big creativity, innovative ideas and new communities to a place.


Public space activation requires financial resources. In the early years of a place, there will be a need for developer contributions to kickstart the annual calendar of activation.

In due course, this will be supplemented by office and retail tenant contributions, marketing budgets, sponsorship, naming, PR benefits and limited ticket sales to cross-fund
free community events.


Great programming ideas only translate into successful activation when audiences are aware and engaged. External partners with their own audiences are especially important early on while a place builds its own following and profile.

Remember, place experience is a powerful marketing tool – maybe even the most powerful. Tailoring and promoting activation to target audiences builds real value for development projects by driving demand.


As a place evolves, so should its programming strategy. It’s important to regularly take stock of outcomes against activation objectives, to repeat, tweak or pivot programming.

Every project should build a tailored sets of metrics for evaluating programming performance. Footfall, audience demographics and diversity, revenue, ratings or reviews, social media, and press coverage are examples of performance measures a team might monitor.