San Francisco, California

Reinforcing community identity

Today, successful retail design means creating opportunities for developers and communities alike. San Francisco-based Field Paoli Architects combines its core strengths of retail design, urban design and community design to transform these opportunities into unique projects that help communities redefine themselves.

“We were designing successful retail-driven downtown redevelopment projects long before the current Main Street trend”, says David Paoli, one of the founding partners of the firm. “We're now applying lessons learned in sensitive areas like downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. to new urban and suburban retail projects so that they can effectively become the social and commercial hearts of their communities.”

Integrating a retail project into its surroundings has long been a central focus of the firm, and the seamless integration achieved at Santa Barbara's Paseo Nuevo has been repeated in a number of projects. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area's Downtown Pleasant Hill project is connected to adjacent residential neighborhoods as well as that city's town hall. As a result, the project is described as “a real downtown” by John King, the San Francisco Chronicle's urban design correspondent.

Going one step further, the commercial success of the Shops at Riverwoods project, located in Provo, Utah, actually generated its own local community, with the construction of the adjacent Village at Riverwoods, a mix of retail, townhouses, lofts and apartments. According to Rob Anderson, the principal in charge of the project, “the two integrated phases of the development encourage a walking-based lifestyle that allows people to live, work and shop in the same neighborhood.” The project was recently recognized by the State of Utah's Envision Utah Planning Partnership, who rewarded the design with a Governor's Quality Growth Award.

The adoption of a retail project by the local community as their downtown has tangible benefits to retailers, developers and municipalities. By bringing the community to the retailers in a downtown-like environment, everyone wins: The community spends more of its time in their retail neighborhood, creating increased business for the retailers and more sales tax revenue for their city.

These benefits will be nowhere more evident than in the Southern California Community of Rancho Cucamonga, where Field Paoli's masterplan for the 120-acre Victoria Gardens project was recently approved. Described by Linda Daniels, Rancho Cucamonga's redevelopment director, as “one of the largest, and most exciting, Main Street developments in the country,” the project is a 24 block mixed-use neighborhood that will be the first to incorporate major department stores and civic functions as an integral part of a community's fabric. Two main streets bisect the project, with a children's center and library creating an additional cultural draw.

According to Brian Jones of Forest City Development,” the unanimous vote of approval that was received from the Planning Commission and City Council suggests that this type of Main Street development is uniquely suited to address the needs of growing communities.” Linked to nearby housing by means of a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails, Victoria Gardens will provide the residents of Rancho Cucamonga with a welcome alternative to the regional malls located in neighboring towns; it will also do much to reinforce the community's sense of identity.