Developers are shopping around for the best retail tenancy make-up for their mixed-use developments.

Courting a coffee shop for the downstairs space might once have been de rigueur, but as more apartment buildings emerge in higher density precinct, developers need to consider other types of business or risk valuable real estate remaining idle.

New apartments tower with retail shops on the ground floor have not worked well in Sydney, according to Chris Johnson, CEO of lobby group, Urban Taskforce Australia.

Mr Johnson said most of these shops sat vacant for long periods of time because their suburban locations did not have big enough populations and foot traffic to support them.

“Town planners and local councils like developers to activate the ground floor, usually with retail, but it’s a flawed model because Sydney is not Paris,” he told The Australian Financial Review.

But as urban areas grow, residents look for additional amenities within comfortable walking distance of home and which complement existing retail offerings, so instead of the ubiquitous coffee shop, developers should consider other opportunities – a provedore, a wine bar, a yoga studio – even a micro-brewery are some of the businesses being encouraged to set up shop in Melbourne.

Cafes were popular over the past 10 to 15 years because they created good community spaces in residential buildings, MA Architects director Karen Alcock said.

But they could not be in every building; variety was important, particularly when there were several larger buildings together, she said.

“The more uses and opportunities you can build into those spaces, the more [likely] they are to be tenanted,” she said. “You can’t cookie-cutter the base of buildings, you’ve got to be quite location-specific about them.”

Teaming up with popular-name restaurateurs who can bring in visitors from outside the immediate catchment area is a model working for the creators of Fortitude Valley’s James Street precinct who are creating another foodie paradise – this time in Brisbane’s Gasworks precinct.

The location is called ‘Haven’; the new luxury apartment tower under construction in Newstead, with John James’ RL57 having been assigned to turn the ground floor into Brisbane’s new retail destination precinct on behalf of developer HCAP Developments.

Working in partnership with CBRE’s Anna Dunworth and Chesters Real Estate’s Greer Gittoes, RL57 has already secured three high profile occupiers.

CBRE’s Ms Dunworth linked the successful leasing program to both the urban revitalisation occurring in Newstead and RL57’s overall vision for the project.

“RL57 is applying the same knowledge and expertise that made James Street such a success to Haven,” Ms Dunworth said.

“The key focus is on tenancy mix and securing the best operators with high quality concepts.”

As Australia’s retail habits change, dynamic entrepreneurs are looking at eclectic, ‘pop-up’ retailers to fill the gaps. Particularly popular in trendy inner-city locations, these artisan businesses sell bespoke goods and services.

Making the concept work is MANY 6160, located in a former five-storey Myer department store in Fremantle, Western Australia.

MANY 6160 is Australia’s largest temporary place activation, with more than 20,000m² of space dedicated to retail, production and events. It provides spaces for independent artists, designers, other cultural workers and small business enterprises…

…Recognising the benefits for users and owners, government agencies and developers are making it easier for real estate to become available for temporary use. They can, for example, reduce the liability for building owners and provide incentives for owners and citizens to start up their own projects.