I am pleased to present this year's Leaders in Retail Architecture — representing some of the best and most innovative architectural and design work the industry has to offer.

In addition to serving up profiles of the individual firms, this special section includes commentary from top architects on the critical trends and issues that are shaping the future of retail. What these pacesetters have to say suggests we're headed for a period of grand-scale experimentation and evolution in retail real estate.

Mixed-use quickly has moved from being the wave of the future to the norm and is clearly a trend that's here to stay. Owners once steeped in developing traditional retail projects are now embracing the concept wholesale — and banking on the knowledge of their architects to help guide them through the process. Mixed-use has been a staple on international projects for years and architects are becoming fast learners in following successes abroad.

Concerns about the environment are also having a larger impact on the industry. Smart pioneers of ‘green design’ are getting out in front of this issue and are voluntarily creating the guiding principles that may someday become mandatory as building codes change to incorporate sustainable design as a requirement.

Lifestyle centers also remain a popular trend, pushing developers to rethink how they configure their spaces and resulting in a new dynamic approach to design. The shift to New Urbanist principles is helping regain a sense of community lost in decades of urban sprawl. At the same time, the role of transit in shaping development and redevelopment opportunities continues to evolve, posing new opportunities for architects to design environments around transportation hubs and to reconfigure tired properties into imaginative new layouts.

In short, today's leading retail architects are going beyond design to make decisions that define a community's social fabric and identity — uncharted waters for even the most seasoned retail professionals. As our Leaders In Retail Architecture have illustrated, the end results are successful designs that meet development goals in a new and exciting way.

Cordially,
Amie Leibovitz
Associate Publisher
Retail Traffic
amie.leibovitz@penton.com

P.S. The call for entries for this year's Retail Traffic Superior Achievement in Design and Imaging (SADI) awards will be in December 2006, but please feel free to call me sooner if you have any questions.