Mixed-use, urban retail projects on the forefront

Somerville, Mass.-based Arrowstreet specializes in architectural design services for commercial development, including broad planning, down to the details of graphics and signage. “Retail is one of our areas of expertise, and we are best known for our mixed-use, urban projects,” says Arrowstreet Principal John Cole.

The firm recognizes that land space is tight today in all urban markets and understands cities' needs for justifying land costs and making the most of every new development. Regarding trends in retail architecture, Cole says his firm is finding a reaction against regional malls and strip centers in the public realm.

Arrowstreet's most recently completed mixed-use project is Providence Place in Providence, R.I. Other urban projects on the boards include Wisconsin Place in Friendship Heights, Md., as well as Assembly Square in Somerville, Mass.

Providence Place will revitalize and reshape a 60-acre portion of downtown Providence near the Capital Center District. The new super-regional mall will feature a glass and steel pedestrian skybridge connecting to the Rhode Island Convention Center and Westin Hotel. The 11-story retail complex will be fully integrated into Providence's existing Federal style architecture, complementing the nearby state capital. Dramatic tower elements will recall the capital dome, while a brick façade with large punched windows and extensive glazing will mirror the area's historical buildings. The project will feature a rooftop IMAX theater and multiplex cinema complex, as well as other entertainment venues.

Wisconsin Place, in contrast, is an unconventional urban entertainment center. The mixed-use project will consist of 120,000 sq. ft. of retail, along with office and residential components, on an eight-acre development that will contain four acres of open public areas and green space. The plan for Wisconsin Place also includes community areas such as gymnasiums and outdoor parks for concerts and other gatherings. Arrowstreet's designers have crafted the project to be a vibrant pedestrian environment where active retail lines the streets.

Arrowstreet's Assembly Square, in Somerville, Mass., on the Mystic River, contains a 250,000-sq.-ft. IKEA furniture store with mixed-use components of office, restaurants and other retail. One unique aspect of the IKEA store lies beneath it — in the form of underground parking. This makes up for limited parking in front of the store, which serves to keep the area greener and friendlier for pedestrians.

“What's common to all these projects is that the planning starts with the needs of the retailers,” Cole says. “Retail typically controls what happens on the ground plane. That's what makes the sidewalks lively and what brings tourist dollars into the area — and it's a major contributor to the atmosphere.”

In addition, governmental agencies are trying to redirect the shape of retail into more integrated, mixed-use environments.

Arrowstreet is comfortable with that new shape. “Our unique background in urban planning, combined with the retail, is what distinguishes the work of this firm,” Cole adds.