Admiring how great cities provide variety and interest around every corner, real estate development teams are creating environments that are characterized by urban attributes. These projects win the affinity of the communities in which they are located and result in success for their developers.

Gresham Station

Located 12 miles east of Portland, 300,000 square feet of retail space named Gresham Station was developed in response to the need for local retail measured as $800 million in annual sales that residents previously spent outside of the city.

Gresham Station is the first phase of a mixed-use, urban, transit-oriented, project called Gresham Civic Neighborhood, located along Portland's Metropolitan Express (MAX) light rail line. Wanting to create a model urban civic neighborhood, a proactive planning process was undertaken by a team that included the developer, civic leaders, community members, architects and planners.

“The planning team worked together to create a livable solution for the world of tomorrow, one that incorporates mass transit and results in a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing sense of home and place,” said Fred Bruning, founder and president of project developer Center Oak Properties. “This project takes a complex urban vision and made it work for a retail center.”

Gresham Station offers such favorites as Old Navy, Gap, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ann Taylor Loft, Bath & Body Works as well as a variety of smaller retailers and restaurants. Second floor office spaces add professional services to the mix.

“Walkable blocks of approximately 200 by 300 feet create an urban shopping experience,” said Alan Pullman, AIA, senior associate and design director at Studio One Eleven, Perkowitz + Ruth Architects' urban design studio. “We worked with tenants to maximize the benefits of having a storefront that is sidewalk adjacent. Awnings, gooseneck lamps, rich stones and textures at the pedestrian level create a warm, Main Street ambiance.”

The Grove

Opened in March 2002, adjacent to Los Angeles' historic Farmer's Market, The Grove is designed to appear as if it had been built over time, as if it had been in place for decades.

“An incredible number of creative voices came together to make The Grove a collection of custom homes for our tenants,” said Dave Williams, senior vice president of architecture for developer Caruso Affiliated Holdings. Serving as the master-plan architect, Williams assembled a team to realize the vision of The Grove, saying that the high degree of variety would probably not have been able to be achieved with one designer. Team members include: Elkus/Manfredi Architects for the majority of the building designs, Langdon Wilson Architects as executive architects, Perkowitz + Ruth Architects for design and construction documents for the cinemaplex, Wet Design for water features, Lifescapes International for landscape and Francis Krahe & Associates Inc. for lighting.

A departure from the multi-level mall format, tenants at The Grove are two or three stories, have a ground floor main entrance and self-contained vertical circulation elements. Individualistic buildings with street-level entries, outdoor balcony dining and store window displays create a vibrant streetscape.

“The buildings are a collection of architectural styles,” said Williams. “Nike Goddess and Apple, both creating West Coast Flagship stores at The Grove, are striking for their modern juxtaposition with buildings that appear to have been built in an earlier era. This is the same kind of an atmosphere that can be found in Paris or on Madison Avenue.”

Tenants are mixed at The Grove to generate activity from early morning until late at night. A draw for the evening hours is Pacific's The Grove Theatres.

“Luxurious, distressed materials were chosen to authenticate the building's blend of Art Deco and Classical design styles,” said Marios Savopoulos, AIA, principal with Perkowitz + Ruth Architects who worked with Caruso Affiliated Holdings to create the theater design. “The theater building harkens back to the grand movie palaces of early Los Angeles, and is reminiscent of an opera house or performing arts theater that could be located in London, Paris or New York City.”

Sy Perkowitz

Sy Perkowitz, AIA, PE is president and CEO of Perkowitz + Ruth Architects, a 175-member firm providing high-quality architectural services to clients through four offices, located in Long Beach, CA; Newport Beach, CA; Washington, D.C.; and Las Vegas, NV.

Urban traits

  • walkable blocks of 200 to 300 feet

  • higher densities

  • pedestrian-scaled architecture and amenities

  • careful articulation of individual storefronts or buildings

  • wide sidewalks and public plazas

  • easy access to public transportation

  • appears to have been developed over different periods of time

  • mixture of uses