Transit or Stay? Unveiling the potential of retail

April 6, 2020 6mn
Moscow has witnessed some vibrant reinventions of public space such as Empire Blackyard, a retail gallery

Known as one of the youngest high-rise business districts in Europe, the Moscow City gradually becomes the inherent part of Moscow’s urban fabric. Over the two decades, since planned, the district has witnessed some vibrant reinventions of public space brought to address the latest placemaking trends. One of the most vivid examples to that is the underground project of Empire Blackyard.

Empire Blackyard is a retail gallery designed to meet the demand of the residents and guests for high-quality food and leisure opportunities. Blank transit corridor in the past, today Blackyard performs as a conceptual public space and one of the key underground transit elements connecting the Empire business high-rise with most of the other towers and public transport nodes. Featuring successfully running retail corners, Blackyard offers fresh food, quality restaurants and cafes, and social amenities. The prominent placemaking project occupies the total area of ​​1,500 square meters including 20 retail pavilions open both to the residents and to the visitors of the district. The color scheme and the navigation concept of the gallery clearly accord the brand color pallet of the district – black, white and yellow – and complements its navigation system.

The project of Empire Blackyard encompassed four phases. The completion of the first two – fit-out and tenant’s accommodation – was followed by a market fair. The month-long fair collected a diverse range of urban and retail projects (i.e. Danilovsky Food Market, TIGI, Ping Pong Club Moscow) – more than 50 companies in total – and operated on a non-profit basis. During the fair, the residents and the guests of the business district enjoyed good music, watched top-ranked TV shows, ate delicious food and much more. Over 30,000 people visited the fair and over 40 publications, including the federal media outlets, covered the event.

Welcoming more than 10,000 visitors daily and showing the lowest retail vacancy in the district, Blackyard emboldened further expansion. Fast-forward two months, the gallery escalated on to the ground level of the high-rise and induced the launch of an open-air public space adjacent to the tower. Activated with the street food market, the public glade smoothly tuned the seasonal user-scenarios of Blackyard. In the cold times of the year, the gallery now serves as a destination while in summer it is a well-placed takeaway station, located next to the glade, concurrently one of the best sunbathing spots in the district.

Given the major outcomes of the project, the case of Blackyard clearly unveils the recreational potential of retail as a placemaking tool. Transformed from an underground transit hall and expanded to the outdoors afterward, Blackyard has not only secured its economic model but enriched the visitor experience.