Nothing beats a great shopping center - by Carol Todreas

April 19, 2019 - Front Section
Carol Todreas

There is nothing like a great shopping center. By “great” and “shopping center,” I mean a pedestrian-scaled development with streets, sidewalks, street side and garage parking with a careful selection of relatively small stores and restaurants. Each store and restaurant would have a different design and some would have second floors for offices, services, art/design studios, and a few apartments. 

Walking through the center there would be an all purpose community room with performing stage as well as an outdoor park with seating on grass or benches, a place for children to play, and a few outdoor game tables. Adjacent to this would be an area for seasonal markets and promotional events and pop-up stores. The shopping center would be seamlessly woven into existing street patterns of a community so it would seem as if it had been in the neighborhood evolving over many years. It would become a small town center.

This shopping center model opened in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, September of 2018, on a 3-acre parcel in what had been a declining town center. Conceived and developed by Rick Caruso, well-known and beloved for his regional and larger shopping centers, The Grove and Americana at Brand, Palisades Village as the retail center is called, is a departure from these other properties. 

While Palisades Village does have a few national chains, Sephora and an Amazon Book store, the retailers are boutique specialty stores from the region. The same is true of the eateries and restaurants. Other tenants include a regional grocer and selected retailers in home décor, apparel, health and wellness. 

The developer had numerous meetings with the community to create a place that would suit their needs and wants. And it worked. People are eating, walking, sitting, hanging out, and shopping. Stores have buyers walking out with bags. All signs point to success. 

There are no gimmicks. The experience is a comfortable, aesthetically appealing and convenient place to shop, to eat, to relax, and to walk around. The experience includes the right mix of stores within an easy to walk layout. While this is a California center, the principles can, should, and could be applied where demographics are favorable and there is a market need. 

The essence is a center created for a community market. There is no anchor. It is easily accessible by foot, bike, bus, or car and complements an existing town center. It continues the flow of pedestrian sidewalks and small scale stores from the adjacent older section of town. It fits in and people are saying it is welcome and inviting, very different from the same old types and boxy looks of most retail real estate.

A glimpse at the basics:

• Palisades Village is 125,000 s/f;

• 22 stores with space for 13 more;

• 10 restaurants and cafes;

• 8 apartments;

• 560 underground parking spaces; and

• 200,000 population nearby.

Carol Todreas is a principal at Todreas Hanley Associates, Cambridge, Mass.

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Carol Todreas 5/7/19 11:57 AM

Dear Mr. Allen,Thanks for your thoughtful comment. "I hear you" as the saying goes. But hear my take: After traveling much of the world looking , studying, and working on retail development, including most of the US, I am well aware that no matter what a developer does to please and satisfy a market with retail development, there will be residents/shoppers that will have problems with the development. Talking to several shoppers and merchants over several visits at Palisades Village, I received a continuous positive note , with the exception of one person who said she loved the restaurants, but felt the design was too precious. Also it is fairly typical in such a lifestyle center to lose a few tenants in the beginning as the market shuffles about to find the "sweet spot". As for it being expensive , that comes with the territory...sad but true in all cases. When the surrounding demographics are what they are in Palisades, the retail follows. Palisades Village sets adjacent to residential streets. While it may not be exactly what it was it certainly is in keeping with the residential character and that is a big deal. You can walk, bike, bus, or scoot there with relative ease which is an anomaly in most places where the car and parking dominate the scene. Moreover, you don't necessarily have to make a purchase, I spoke to many who just enjoyed sitting around and people watching. Such pleasures are few here in New England. Best, Carol

Peter Allen 4/21/19 3:58 PM

Ms. Trodreas seems to be trolling the Caruso PR machine here. As a resident of Pacific Palisades, I can tell you that Caruso talked a good game and promised all the things we needed and wanted here. He did not deliver. The stores and theater are over-priced and the shopping center does not make use of our existing street structure. He banned the farmer’s market and opened shops that compete with our existing retail base. He drove up rents and forced many necessary businesses out. The architecture and construction do not seem like they have been “woven” into our community. It looks like someone took Disneyland and put it in a sleepy beach town. As to success, the market has already closed, along with 4 other retailers. The apartments are not rented ($32,000/month) and tenants are unhappy with low foot traffic. Talk with Tocaya or Madeo or General Porpoise or Sumo Dog. Caruso’s mistake was to sell a community a center “conceived” in their vision and deliver a destination concept that leaves no room for community. Nothing beats a great shopping center, but Carusoville surely isn’t one. Some like it, but many wish it had never been built.

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