"Retail lifestyle centers began springing up in this country about five years ago, about the same time cities began considering how mixed-use development might revitalize their downtowns. Within just two years, mixed-use development began transforming decaying urban neighborhoods and abandoned city centers into lively 24-hour districts with residential neighborhoods and life on the street. Meanwhile, developers began working with smaller cities to create town centers and developing open-air lifestyle and regional shopping centers in master-planned communities and suburbsâ€"all of which provided an environment that brought people closer together physically and socially.
..On any Saturday night, long after stores have closed, the square at Victoria Gardens regional shopping center in Rancho Cucamonga, California, is filled with families watching free outdoor movies, he notes. Planned on a street grid, Victoria Gardens, a 1.3 million-square-foot joint project of Forest City and California-based Lewis Investment Company LLC, serves as a town center for a 247-acre mixed-use project that includes office space and public facilities. The retail/entertainment component is designed around the projectâ€™s iconic location along historic Route 66 (now Interstate 15) and at the heart of a winery region in the southern California foothills. The project has three architecturally distinct districts representing Spanish colonial days to the present century, providing visitors a sense of the regionâ€™s past."
...Designing centers around regional themes is a growing trend, points out Scott Kaplan, national retail director for Los Angelesâ€"based brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis. For example, in the Homestead area of Pittsburgh, the Waterfront, a 750,000-square-foot project developed by Columbus, Ohioâ€"based Continental Real Estate Companies, provided historic interest by repositioning a former steel mill as a retail/entertainment center that incorporates elements of the original plant. Located on a 256-acre brownfield site on the Monongahela River, the project, now owned by Illinois-based Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, retained the millâ€™s smokestacks, which serve as a reminder of the siteâ€™s previous use, Kaplan notes. â€œYou get a flavor of the region. Itâ€™s culturally driven, really cool, and something you donâ€™t forget.â€