Pedestrian-Oriented Development Creates Inviting Space

For Luca Maffey, vice president of design at John Portman & Associates, a building serves no purpose unless there are people to make it come alive. Pedestrian-oriented development is a common thread in many of the Atlanta-based architectural firm’s current hotel projects.

“Design that is happening right now is not zoned as it used to be in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s—you sleep here and work there,” Maffey says. Hotel design today goes a step beyond the “live, work, and play” mixed-use environments consumers have grown used to in the last decade. “The sidewalks are really activated with retail fronts, and people don’t care so much about being in an enclosed, protected space.”

It’s not a matter of size when it comes to hotel public spaces, it’s all about how the space is activated, Maffey says. The flow of the lobby and the functions within it must work well with the outside environment. “Lobbies of hotels are intended to be an extension of the public space outside of it,” he says. “Because of that, you need to be able to make them attractive enough so people can easily go in and out and not feel intimidated.”


Food and beverage and “cool” retail outlets—not just a sundry shop with postcards—help draw people into the building. “In addition to key specialty restaurants or bars in the hotel, you could have a café at the corner, which activates the sidewalk,” Maffey suggests.

From dual-branded hotels to mixed-use developments, building functions are merging, Maffey adds. “We see a lot of blurring between different functions and practices. We’ve got hotels that want to be more residential or offices that want to be more hospitality, so it’s this undefined line of functions that reflects more of the guests we have today.”

By mixing uses and functions, it leaves more room for creativity in design, Maffey says. “So you don’t have the normal configuration of a typical 5-foot-bay office building, you can start looking at different scales that are a little more residential.”

John Portman & Associates is in the process of converting a 1965 office building in downtown Atlanta (230 Peachtree) to a 206-room Hotel Indigo, topped with 17 floors of office space. Slated to open this month, the transient-oriented, mixed-use development sits atop a MARTA train station and offers easy access to Atlanta’s new Streetcar and downtown attractions. Maffey says a new restaurant and other amenities will be positioned on the ground floor.

The firm also has a mixed-use project under construction in the LoDo district of Denver that features a 180-room Hotel Indigo with retail at street level and office space on top. To ensure walkability, the drop-off area for the hotel is positioned away from the pedestrian route.

In San Diego, the firm’s Lane Field redevelopment project marries select-service, extended-stay, and full-service in two towers. Lane Field North, which is scheduled to open in February 2016, will feature a 253-key SpringHill Suites and a 147-key Residence Inn. Lane Field South, which is currently in the design phase, will add a 400-key full-service hotel to the master plan. There will be a retail component to the project for shops and restaurants, as well as a park to create a blended environment.

“I see the dual-brand picking up very strong,” Maffey says. “Operators like it because it attracts different types of guests. You can stack the different brands, or you can link them through amenities, depending on how the operator wants to function or how the developer wants to invest in the project.”