Renovating an under-performing property can have a powerful effect that reverberates throughout a community. In recent years, we have seen plans for tear-downs turn into plans for remodels and the results are striking. The creative act of incorporating customer and community needs is among the most gratifying work a design team undertakes, as it re-imagines what could be in order to bring new life to a development.

In one example of how to respond to design challenges, owner Combined Properties wanted to create a distinctive place on the site of a tired property. Along the busy corridor of Lincoln Boulevard on the border of Santa Monica, Calif. — approximately eight blocks from the world-famous Venice Beach boardwalk — sat one of many dated and vanilla shopping centers. It featured a generic roster of tenants, was plagued by crime and had fallen into disrepair. It was difficult for neighbors to support or even take notice of the former Lincoln & Rose site.

In response, Combined wanted to bring in a new design and dynamic tenants to show its commitment to improving the property to the community. To support this effort, Perkowitz + Ruth's urban design group, Studio One Eleven, created an innovative building exterior that reflects the character of this unique beachside neighborhood. The contemporary building material palette features a pattern of textured and colored stucco, steel, colored glass, metal panels, clear anodized storefronts, burnished concrete block, bamboo plywood and a variety of wood sidings.

In addition, designers used exterior lighting to emphasize architectural features, encourage night-time activity and illuminate an outdoor dining patio and merchandising area in front of the new Whole Foods Market.

Sustainability was fundamental to the effort. The scheme minimized construction through the reuse of existing buildings. And the redevelopment increased permeable surfaces by 250 percent while introducing a LEED-qualified bioswale/filtration system to treat storm water runoff.

The project was 100 percent leased prior to its completion. The Whole Foods Market has far surpassed its expected sales.

Playing ball

In another case, the Washington Nationals baseball team worked with the Washington, D.C. office of Perkowitz+Ruth Architects to update its two-year-old Diamond Club at Nationals Park with the goal of attracting membership. The recently completed design enhances ballpark views and creates a high-energy setting where baseball enthusiasts can be catered to in a club atmosphere.

The new PNC Diamond Club's design is a celebration of D.C.'s baseball heritage. A new façade and entry welcome members to the urban upscale lounge. Exterior pennants feature Hall of Famers Buck Leonard, Josh Gibson and Walter Johnson, as well as Senators legend Frank Howard and current Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman.

The club's interior incorporates a large concierge entry, real brick interior walls, a lounge with leather club chairs and 17 HDTVs, a backlit glass mosaic bar with granite counter tops, a dining room and an enlarged kitchen.

The project opened to acclaim in time for the Nationals' exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox on April 3.