Raising The Roof On America's Malls

The tide in mall development is changing to incorporate elements of nostalgia for 'Americana' and a hometown feel, complete with story lines, but concerns over traffic congestion and over-development persist.

"Southern California's shopping centers are in the midst of a major building boom that promises to change the mall experience but also raises new concerns about how the retail behemoths fit into their surrounding communities."

"The latest addition is likely to be developer Rick Caruso's 830,000-square-foot Shops at Santa Anita, which won unanimous approval from the Arcadia City Council last week. Caruso, considered Southern California's mall innovator, built the faux village-style Grove mall in the Fairfax district - which gets more visitors a year than Disneyland - and is building a similar "lifestyle center" in downtown Glendale."

"The new versions of the mall usually are less monolithic, more stylized outdoor centers that resemble self-contained villages and often face inward. Stuccoed buildings open onto central courtyards or walkways that are designed to take advantage of the mild Southern California climate and allow patrons to linger a little longer and spend a little more."

"The changes in the look and feel of shopping centers are part of a national, if not international, trend that is driving consumers outdoors and enhancing the shopping experience. Locally, operators are adding large indoor playgrounds for children and shattering the mold that once pegged a mall as either high- or low-end - integrating, say, a Target and Neiman Marcus into the same center."

"More than anything, Caruso said, he is trying to "build something I would enjoy a place where you can sit out, have a glass of wine and watch people. If you create a very interesting, compelling place to go, people will go there to shop."

Thanks to D. A. Varnado, AICP

Full Story: Super-sized malls raise concerns

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