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Thread: USA TODAY article - Shoppers turn to town centers

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
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    USA TODAY article - Shoppers turn to town centers

    Topless malls, or lifestyle centers, tower over development trends
    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition...timall.art.htm

    Highlights:
    Because all stores can be entered from the parking lots, these topless malls satisfy busy shoppers' desire to run in and out.

    And by combining upscale grocery stores, movie theaters and restaurants — tenants once usually banished to mall parking lots or their own strip malls

    The centers have proved so popular that some leading mall developers vow they'll never build an enclosed mall again. Of the 10 large regional shopping centers scheduled to open from 2006 to 2008, only one has a roof.

    But the development trend is clearly toward building outdoor shopping areas and adding lifestyle sections to existing enclosed malls.

    Despite their popularity, one of the complaints about malls is that they've destroyed many downtown shopping areas and reduced the sense of community. The new-style town centers solve those problems and more.
    I like the idea of eliminating the box store/restuarant in the parking lot.

    Interesting list of where they are at: http://www.usatoday.com/money/indust...e-master_x.htm

    Does your fair city have one of these ?
    or as the print article stated -
    Builders, retailers aim for atmosphere of an old-fashioned downtown
    After reading the article, I am still at loss as to how this is new or different,
    other than improving the tenent mix or
    a fancy strip/square center ?
    Last edited by JNA; 31 Jan 2007 at 1:02 PM.
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  2. #2

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    I've been to a couple of these when travelling in the U.S. in Michigan and Massachusetts -- for some reason I remember a couple of manufacturer's outlet malls being configured like this. I liked them; they did seem nicer than a regular mall, but they were still surrounded by parking, same as a standard mall.

    On a nice day, they seemed like great places to walk around and explore, as they are designed to force you to walk around more, but on a winter day or a windy or rainy day, I imagine they'd be worse than a regular mall (worse meaning less attractive to customers)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    The closest one to me would be the Towne Center at Cedar Lodge in Baton Rouge (which I've never visited), although I think there's one being developed across the lake from New Orleans. I honestly don't see the big difference between an outdoor lifestyle center and a mall, other than a fancy name and some structural/design changes.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian southern_yank's avatar
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    Gettysburg has something like this. Though the outdoor mall doesn't really capture a "Main St." feeling, from a design perspective I like it much better than a typical mall. There are diagonal on-street parking spaces between the stores, and a green area with a gazebo in the center of the complex. The mall in no way connects to surrounding development - it's surrounded by parking on all sides. A movie theatre is also part of the complex, but it is off site and you have to walk through a big parking lot to get to it (a mistake in design, IMO). Though it's not perfect, I think these things are a bit better than the alternative.

    I heard Ed Mcmahon from ULI say there are only 2 enclosed malls in the country currently being planned. It looks like we'll be seeing more outdoor shopping centers like these.

  5. #5

    Glorified outlet malls?

    IS it me, or are these just landscaped outlet malls??? If real "streets" ran thru them, they would be called downtowns or "faux downtowns". In Ohio, Cleveland has Crocker Park and Columbus has Easton Place as faux downtowns.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  6. #6
    Yeah I couldn't find a good image of one of these places... but it seems to me like they're simply Malls with out a covering over their central corridor. I disagree with those of you who say that there need to be cars on the streets, but I would venture to say that there needs to be apartments, and some kind of mass transit link up to make this into more of a town and less of a mall. Also because it's a Mall model the stores all seem to be typical corporate chains with no local business to really add much to the local economy except retail jobs. The other thing is that it is all private property and little things like freedom of speech can be curbed in such forums. What we need are towns to design places like this through zoning, attract some chains as well as local business, connect them to major roads and transit and have them be public space.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    http://www.thegrovela.com/directory/

    The Grove is all the rage in Los Angeles. However, like many have stated, it requires parking in a giant structure and entering though one of just a few "alleys". It is also accesible by pedestrians, but not very easily. You are forced to walk through the neighboring farmers market, which might lead you from ever entering the grove. You wouldn't be missing much though since the Grove is just like any suburban mall with fancier decor and a little trolley line. The 3rd st promenade in Santa Monica does a much better job attracting local, pedestians, and tourist as it has a wider array of retail and is much more welcoming and less plastic/disneyesque.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I've been to one of these in Carmel, IN, and it has a road running down the middle and parking lot access roads intersecting in a few places at roundabouts. It's basically a mall with no roof and a road running through it. I've been to others in several states that are just malls with no roofs. Oakbrook Mall in suburban Chicago is pretty much one of these even though it's older. It's is a different experience than a regular mall; you get live plants, exposure to the elements (good or bad), etc.

    Now that I'm thinking about it the article seems to be blending town centers and lifestyle centers. Where LC's i would expect to be roofless malls, TC's should, according to their name, incorporate more elements of a town, but I don't think they do.

    I agree with the person/people who said they should work in transit/mixed uses into these projects. That would truly be a "town center." But of course that won't happen in the majority of these cases.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    After reading the article, I am still at loss as to how this is new or different,
    other than improving the tenent mix or
    a fancy strip/square center ?
    I asked myself, "How is this different than a mall, aside from being in the elements?" Why are these shopping centers "gathering places", BTW?

    What they seem like to me is L- or U-shaped strip malls with movie theaters and upscale eateries.

    I really don't think that these open-air malls are going to endanger indoor malls, at least in WNY. When it's 22 degrees with a wind-chill of 8 and blowing snow, not a lot of people are going to stop on the sidewalk to chat!

  10. #10
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    There is a new one in Greenville, SC called the Shops at Greenridge which opened about 9 months before I came to NJ. I think it works rather well in that region because it created a bit of a destination to go to and wasn't another traditional mall. Basically it is an arc of big box type stores-Best Buy, Lowe's, World Market, Total Wine & More (2nd best thing there!), a Ross, PetsMart, Office Max, etc surrounding a more village like set of buildings that have many smaller shops and restaurants and Barnes & Noble in the center (best thing there!) a number of shops are locally owned businesses. It works given the mild weather and the convenience of being able to run in and out if needed. There is an outdoor entertainment concert series that runs three seasons. I hope that the mix of retail and restaurant will help it from going the way of Laurens Rd which is now an abandoned stretch of big boxes.

    My chief complaints are that while the location between I-385 and I-85 seems suitable, Woodruff Rd. which is where the access point is located is an already heavily traveled road and ill-equipped to deal with the development's traffic in addition to the Whole Foods anchored shopping center across the street. For a while traffic exiting from 385 South to Woodruff Rd. would back up all the way down the ramp and onto the interstate itself until the exit ramp was widened.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    One of these opened in Novi MI and failed terribly. Most of it is currently being ripped down after being built a few years ago. Its biggest tennant in terms of square footage was an indoor skate park! They are leaving some of the buildings (well the ones with tennants) and will try again once the market is better with a more strip mallish design!
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    We have Mayfaire, a large mixed-use development on former farm land that opened shortly before we moved here. It has a "town center" * component as well as out parcels, strip malls, hotels, upscale new urbanist single family neighborhoods, condominiums and apartments. The "town center" part is halfway developed and includes a "Main Street" lined with 3- to 4-story buildings (retail on first floor and condos above). There are parking lots behind the buildings and a movie theatre and restaurants at the end of the "Main Street." There are sidewalks and bike lanes throughout the development, but no crosswalks or sidewalks along the thoroughfares that surround the parcel. It is essentially self-contained, although the streets do connect to adjacent neighbohoods of single-family homes (1950s brick ranches on 1/3-1/2 acre lots).


    Here is a link to its location.
    Unfortunately, it was built after the aerials were taken.

    The development acts as a second downtown for the region and could, in the long run, hurt the historic downtown's chances at attracting national chain stores and restaurants.

    * "Town center" is a highly inappropriate term for this type of development. A town center is the historic center of an incorporated town, not a shopping center disguised as a town.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Mayfaire

    I live in the city where Mayfaire is located, Wilmington, North Carolina. I like new urbanism, Mayfaire's concept was great, however, it seems overblown and less of a favorite destination to go too. It has created a bottleneck of traffic that will NEVER be fixed. Big city developers came in with the big city plans and just went overboard in many ways.

    As far as it harming the historic downtown, where I live in the middle of the CBD; I walk to resturants, to the bank, post office, drug store, cigar store, walk on the riverwalk along the Cape Fear River, walk to my church, and enjoy a night life with 40 bars all of this within 3 blocks or so. The downtown and its port is atleast 275 years old, it has survived 1775-1783 and 1861-1865. Mayfair no problem.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    I've been to the one in Marlton, NJ and the one in Mt. Pleasant, SC and a much smaller and older version in Shrewsbury, NJ which is on the border of the quite urban Red Bank, NJ.

    Mt. Pleasant Towne Center is by far the best. The parking is against the highway but it's broken up with pad sites on "streets", the interior streets are open to autos but the streets are brick pavers. and there's angle parking around the exterior. Some condos and apartments would make this place no different from an actual town (albeit a modern one).

    why these places get built before real towns get redeveloped is the square footage. It's easy for a developer to line-up national chains for a new mall in an area where there's already demand - and they can afford the rents that new construction commands.

    I don't sweat that stuff anymore. King of Prussia, the sprawling mall complex 30 miles northwest of Center City Philadelphia, IMHO, is 3-5 years away from announcing some sort of residential component to their commercial and retail mix.
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  15. #15
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I would rather walk around a real downtown.

    Shoppers tend to be simply lemmings going for the next thing that gives them different experience. I still think they are dumb, because one usually has to drive to them anyways.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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  16. #16
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The quality of lifestyle malls varies. There is one nearby in Illinois which is really not much more than a pretty mall. In the Milwaukee area we have Bayshore, which does a somewhat better job of creating the impression of a downtown. Madison has pulled that off a little better with the redevelopment of Hilldale Mall, which adds residential to the mix. The best example I know is Bel Mar, in Lakewood, Colorado. It has the right mix of uses and a layout that truly does replicate a downtown. We are involved in a similar project now, as well as others that only incorporate some of the "lifestyle" components.
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian martini's avatar
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    They just strike me as prettier strip malls, nothing more. IMO, malls and strip malls have garnered 'cheap' reputations, and developers are trying to find ways out of that hole. Trying to find a way to bring the customer in with the latest design fashion in architecture/planning.
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  18. #18
    Cyburbian Dashboard's avatar
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    There is also a new lifestyle center (or outdoor pedestrian mall) being built in Macomb County, Michigan, in the northern metro Detroit area. Click here for a link. At that website is a photo gallery with some renderings. This site used to be a golf course and they are also building hundreds of new single-family homes around it. There is approximately 500,000 people in a five-mile radius of the site.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Town centers (towne centres?) are all the rage down here in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Examples you might want to look for are Southlake Town Center in Southlake, TX and Firewheel Town Center in Garland, TX. Personally I find them to be a pale imitation of a traditional small town CBD but they are esthetically better than a monolith surrounded by an ocean of asphalt.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian jkellerfsu's avatar
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    "The Avenue"

    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    I would rather walk around a real downtown.

    Shoppers tend to be simply lemmings going for the next thing that gives them different experience. I still think they are dumb, because one usually has to drive to them anyways.
    I will walk in a real downtown ANY DAY!!!

    I live downtown but my family lives in the suburbs near "The Avenue in White Marsh". It has done quite well. It is located across the street from the main "traditional" indoor mall. It is a mix between local business and franchise (with faranchise dominant). I am not a huge fan but the restaurants/bars do very well and if I am mtg my county friends for a visit, we congregate at The Avenue.

    Who knows how well it will do in the future. On the weekends nights and all summer long the place is crawling with teenagers who cause a lot of problems.

    There are bus lines running on the adjacent street (as many have mentioned, this is not a true street just a narrow parking lot with GIGANTIC parking lots behind the stores)

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