Creating Prosperous City Centres Post-Pandemic Through Repurposing Retail Space

This collaboration aims to share knowledge and experience of practice and research on the planning and regeneration of retail spaces in city centres in the UK and South Korea to identify current and future challenges and develop solutions.

There are increasing concerns that city centre retail spaces are becoming obsolete in the UK and South Korea. Research shows that many cities in advanced economies have too much retail space and insufficient demand from retailers. This has led to high retail vacancy rates, particularly in city centres that have struggled in recent years to attract sufficient visitors to remain economically sustainable. The growth of e-commerce and online shopping, which has been further accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, has reduced the need for shoppers to visit physical retail centres. The pre-pandemic data showed that 24% of total retail sales in South Korea and 19% in the UK took place online (Savills, 2020), which suggests that the issue of redundant retail space is likely to get worse.  The issue of redundant retail space is a major concern for decision makers in the UK and South Korea.

Through a series of workshops, site visits, and collaborations, this project aims to 1) share UK and South Korean inter-disciplinary expertise on planning and regenerating retail spaces in city centres, 2) evaluate current efforts to redevelop vacant retail centres in South Korea and the UK, and consider the applicability of policy, design, and cultural transfer between contexts, 3) define the future challenges, opportunities, and gaps in knowledge related to repurposing retail spaces in city centres post-pandemic in South Korea and the UK, 4) jointly develop a new interdisciplinary network of researchers and a wider international network of practitioners focused on establishing a future research agenda on city centre transformation post-pandemic.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Sina Shahab, Cardiff University

Dr. Brian Webb, Cardiff University
Dr. James White, University of Glasgow
Dr. Jonghyun Yoo, University of Seoul
Dr. Hyojin Baek, Hanbat National University
Prof. Myungje Woo, University of Seoul
Prof. Changhyo YI, Hanbat National University
Prof. Jaemin Song, Seoul National University
Dr. Allison Orr, University of Glasgow
Prof. Michael White, Nottingham Trent University


February 2022 – February 2023


UK South Korea Connections Grants 2021 UKRI (ESRC)