Listen up Retail Developers!
What the Public is Saying They Want

11/25/07 - My latest poll is related to what new retail the public would like to see replace Park Lane mall. It steadily received votes from you loyal readers over the past three weeks or so, and I am surprised by the results a bit. Let's take a look at the results as of 11/25. I will be replacing this poll shortly with a new question which is also directly related to retail and this article.

With 207 logged unique votes, 66.18% of you would like to see a self-contained urban mall like the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, and 27.54% would like to see an open-air mall similar to The Summit Mall on the corner of Mt. Rose and Highway 395. I was surprised that 27% of you chose the outdoor open-air mall, given the winter climate. It would be foolhardy for me to assume all of you can't stand being cold like myself; nevertheless the most common complaint I heard about Summit while it was being built is "they are nuts to make this an outdoor mall, wait until winter comes."

So I want to take a closer look at both the outdoor, open-air mall concept, and the mega-compact mall which is the Beverly Center, since these are the two most popular choices in my poll. When reading these retail mall concepts, keep in mind they can be applied to not only the Park Lane mall space, but downtown as well, where Baseball Stadium developers and others are brainstorming on developing new retail concepts downtown. This would work with either.

The Outdoor Mall -

Two outdoor malls exhibit concepts that could be applied to the former Park Lane Mall space, and the empty lots downtown across from the Bowling Stadium and proposed Baseball Stadium.

The Grove
Size: 570,000 s.f. outdoor mall - 50 stores, 6 restaurants, 14 screen movie theater.
Visitors per year: 22 million
Cool things about it: Connected to Farmer's Market by electric trolley cars. Large dancing fountains in center court.

- There isn't a more controversial outdoor mall in L.A. than the Grove. It's either loved or hated by native Los Angelinos, and usually loved by tourists. This mall was erected next to the large, quaint and original Farmer's Market downtown, and that's where most of the controversy lies. Hardcore farmer's market goers who have been frequenting the farmer's market for decades were appalled at the gaudiness and faux factor of the new mall next door. Let's set the controversy aside, and look at just the concept; the size of this mall, and the architecture, because the bottom line is whether the locals like it or admit it, the mall is successful and constantly packed. One reason I chose this mall for this piece is it has a movie theater, just like Park Lane. if an outdoor model is chosen for the new Park Lane retail, there is an opportunity to design it like a shopping street like this mall. There is enough room to do it on the Park Lane property if a parking garage is built. This concept could also be applied to Evans Avenue, right where the baseball stadium is going. Imagine a street-front shopping district like the Grove that started with the train trench cover on Virginia Street, traveled along Commercial Row over to Lake Street, and extended over to Evans, then finally wrapping around to the Waterfront Property. They could even build an electric trolley to transport people from Virginia St. over to the stadium. Hmmmm...


Fashion Island, Newport Beach
Size: 1.2 million s.f. - 200 retail stores, 7-screen luxury movie theater
Visitors per Year: 13 million
Cool things about it: A beautiful 20,000 gallon Koi Pond with nearly 100 koi, “Pop Jet” and “Iris Fountain,” two unique fountains, a custom-made Venetian-themed carousel with antique horses and menagerie animal, 16 bronze sculptures of Garibaldi Damselfish “swimming” in sea grass, installed in 2006.

- This is a big outdoor mall in Orange County, in Newport Beach, my birth city. This mall is obviously too big for the Park Lane property or downtown, but it's the niche concept the mall embraces that would make for a very successful mall in either of these areas. Out of its 200 stores, 51 of them are the only store of its kind in Southern California and 11 of them are the only stores of that Brand in the country. This fact alone draws millions of visitors to the boutique stores tucked away in this immense outdoor mall. The mall has been around since 1967, and opened with a gargantuan 909,000 sf, considered other-worldly back in 1967.


Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
Size: 3 City blocks, closed to vehicular traffic.
Live Web Cam

I can't count how many afternoons I spent people watching here. The amazing thing about the Third Street Promenade is the entertainment. Skateboarders, bizarre street performers and hippie art vendors round out the laid-back, beachy experience. Three blocks long, the Promenade is home to racks of vintage clothing, CDs and specialty book stores. Artsy types head for Hennessy & Ingalls' architectural book shop, while chain-hungry shoppers patronize stores like Urban Outfitters and Banana Republic's two-story flagship store. The Promenade used to be an actual street, an extension of 3rd Street. However 3 blocks of it was closed to cars, and it blossomed into a hip shopping corridor. You'll find singers, comedians and an all-silver robot man performing on any given day.
While this retail model may not be right for Park Lane's space, I feel it's perfect for the train trench cover. You may have read on my site that there are rumors Leal will be unveiling a plan for the trench cover that involves building smaller boutique-size retail buildings on one or both sides of the trench cover, that would face toward the cover plaza. This would create a public area very similar to the 3rd Street Promenade; the Promenade is 3 blocks, the trench cover would be 2 blocks; when constructed, both would have wide open center areas for the public and street performers to mingle, and both would have smaller unique retail anchoring both sides. The retail wouldn't be on the cover itself, but on either side of it. Not a bad idea hmmm?

The Urban Mall Footprint

This is what the majority of your voted for, so I wanted to showcase the example I outlined in the poll. The Woolworths Building and perhaps a couple of other lots downtown could accommodate a mall size like this, however due to the sheer size of them, scale-wise a mall like this would fit better at the Park Lane site. It's close enough downtown that people living downtown would gladly drive the one mile or so to shop, and it would attract the Southwest, Old Southwest, and Suburban Southwest shoppers as well. We're talking 160+ store-size. Maybe it could be done at the former Park Lane space, or maybe the space is too small, but it's what you voted for, so we can dream, right?

The Beverly Center
Size: 160 Stores, 900,000 square feet, Total Land Area: Approximately 8 acres
Cool Things About It: Beverly Center's self-parking structure can accommodate over 3,000 vehicles and is located on levels two through five. The entire structure is eight floors high, with four of those levels devoted to parking, and levels six, seven and eight devoted to the stores and mall.

The Beverly Center is laid out similar to Meadowood, except it's on steroids, and plopped down on top of 4 levels of parking. The core of the mall is three levels high, and features artwork throughout. The stores are typical chain stores, and few are unique, however what makes the mall unique as a structure is the parking garage, and rooftop dining; you can see most of Hollywood eight-floors up.

So there you have it! Since most developers in town visit this site, let's discuss it in the comments section. What are your thoughts and opinions of the Park Lane Mall site, the Train Trench Cover site, and the various retail sites proposed near the baseball stadium site? Be constructive and imaginative. Trust me they crave public opinion more than we all may think.



Post your comments
Posted by: Manny - 11/25/2007 8:25:31 PM
I am not a fan of stuffy indoor shopping malls. A layout like this would be perfect, and Gotchalks and the theater could be incorporated. I like the parking garage concept with two to three story retail.

Posted by: Susan - 11/26/2007 7:17:40 AM
The idea of retail along Commercial Row from Virginia to the proposed baseball stadium is a great idea. An outdoor street-scape like atmosphere. Harrah's parking garage across from the Amtrak Station needs a serious facelift anyway. Turning the trench cover into a pedestrian mall is the way to go. At least then it will have some function, and not sit as a plaza for homeless people to gather.

Posted by: Ken - 11/26/2007 7:44:53 AM
Great post! I took the bait and of course ended up getting my crayons out. Plans for Park Lane - in short - "A district not a mall"

Posted by: Devin Sommerton - 11/26/2007 7:45:38 AM
I have to disagree with the first comment. MY wife and I feel a 4 story shopping mall like the Beverly Center is exactly what downtown needs to lure shoppers in from Summit Sierra. They need to do what Legends at Sparks Marina is doing, and get unique retailers that aren't in this area already.

Posted by: Danny - 11/26/2007 6:11:52 PM
If the open air concept kept the parking on the outside, the cold really wouldn't matter. Most people go from store to store, but when the parking is smack dab in the middle (Sierra Summit) then it becomes a drab to walk clear to the other part. So many times I have been at Apple and wanted to go to Banana Republic but didn't because it's an issue to get in the car then get out. Then get back in the car. So... my point is, if it was like third street promenade, or the block at orange, it would be AMAZING!

Posted by: Pat Fifel - 11/26/2007 6:57:18 PM
Have you heard of Hollywood and Highland? It is a big mall in Hollywood that's pretty famous. Something like that would be nice downtown.

Posted by: Mike Van H - 11/27/2007 7:25:04 AM
Wow thanks for all the comments so far! To Ken, I can't believe how fast you came up with your own site plan for Park Lane! I think it's awesome idea. From your East River plan to your Grant's Landing alternative and now Park Lane, I totally follow your style of urban planning and love it. Why aren't you working for our planning commission? To Pat, yes I have heard of Hollywood and Highland, how could a bonified Southern California native not? For those of you unfamiliar, Hollywood and Highland is a huge shopping district which includes the Kodak Theater, a hotel, and a cutting edge futuristic shopping mall with about 60 stores. It's beauty lies in its layout, which is 5 levels high and surrounds a massive central courtyard. You can see a directory map here or a picture here I would classify this as the Beverly Center type of mall..compact, vertical and efficient. I could definitely see something like this across the street from the Baseball Stadium or at Park Lane.

Posted by: El Diablo - 11/27/2007 10:03:58 AM
Listen to yourselves, have you looked lately at the population of Reno, it is 204,000 people and currently stagnating. The median income is $40,530.00 per household (meaning that it usually takes two people working in the same house to make that much money). However, some people think huge retail projects, which exist in LARGE cities with poulations five to ten times larger than ours, would be great in Reno. Reno had a lot of money going around for the last couple of years due to the easy credit, but that is coming to a screaching halt. There will be no more using your house like a piggy bank. No more easy refinances of the home and just watch the foreclosure list grow every day. Anyone who has lived in Reno for a long time knows Reno goes through boom and busts periods and we are about to go into a bust period. It may not start until next summer but its coming. There is so much vacant retail space in downtown Reno right now and even more is about to be available and some people think we should build giant malls with more retail space? I am just being realistic not negative, this website and the revitilization of downtown reno are wonderful. I worry though that all this unfettered building will result in empty buildings, which will drag Reno backwards. Let's just enjoy the progress made so far.

Posted by: Ken - 11/27/2007 12:00:29 PM
El Diablo you raise a lot of great points. From my perspective, a big dirt lot where there used to be a mall will drag Reno backwards just as well as a big empty mall would. I think things like the park lane project don't operate in a vacuum - what I mean is this project has to be considered in tandem with the other work that's going on citywide: facade improvement program downtown, Leal's Plaza we're going to learn about soon, lighting upgrades along S Virginia between Plumb and Liberty, Grand Sierra's plans, RSCVA's stabbing around in the dark to find a fall/winter event that will work every year, airport authority's aggressive attempts to get nonstop service to destinations like NY and DC, etc - all these signs point to continuing investments in Reno and the area as both a place to live and as a visitor attraction. Park Lane's strength is its proximity to downtown and the convention center. One high negative for Reno right now as a visitor destination is the existence of close-in high street retail and if this helps answer that in a meaningful way, you'll see those visitor and associated numbers get on an upward trend, which will affect all the other numbers you highlight.

Posted by: Justin - 11/27/2007 2:23:08 PM
El Diablo brings up some very important points, but I think one needs to examine the details a bit more closely in order to see the big picture. Reno's population is actually closing in on 220k, not 204k. In 2006, the population was estimated at nearly 212k (Source: State of Nevada Demographer). Add in our city city, Sparks at roughly 80k and you have 300k people within a 15 minute drive of Reno's city core. The median income was 42,214 in 2005, so I can only assume 2-3 years later it's somewhere around $45k. What makes Reno unique? Our tourism market for one. We are roughly the size of Boise, yet we get significantly more tourists due to our casinos, recreational opportunities, and special events. Reno is also the only significant metropolitan area in Northern Nevada, and as such, is the only place you can go to do any sort of serious shopping in Northern Nevada. Retailers in our area draw shoppers from many outlying bedroom communities such as Fernley, Fallon, Silver Springs, Minden, Gardnerville, Dayton, Virginia City, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, etc. Does this mean I think that we can support a big mall like the Beverly Center at Plumb & Virginia? No, but I do think we can support something approx. the size of The Summit Sierra or Meadowood Mall, especially given the great location (centrally located in the heart of the valley at the corner of Reno's 2nd or 3rd busiest intersection and within close proximity to nearly all the area hotels/casinos and the airport). In reference to the vacant retail space downtown, I have a feeling this has a bit to do with the fact that major retailers like to be located next to other major retailers, of which, downtown offers none. Not to mention the very limited permanent population of the downtown area, which only recently has begun to change. I also think it's easier to lure new retailers with new contruction where the buildings can be built to their specs. Whatever they do with this site, I truly hope it's something unique. Quality over quantity, I say.

Posted by: H.T. - 12/15/2007 8:16:54 AM
Think Downtown San Diego..... The Gaslamp District hosted absolutely no retail or restaurants outside of Horton Plaza. Over the last 15 years, the city completely revitalized itself. Many new/renovated living lofts, tons of unique shopping, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs. A fantastic inspiration for this city (on a smaller scale, respectively).