Sacramento's Galleria at Roseville is an American beauty. What if the tiny, mid-19th century railroad town of Roseville, Calif. had been frozen in time, then thawed out more than 100 years later in the midst of the millennium? Imagine old Roseville's picturesque personality paired with the high-tech comforts of the 21st century, and you'll see the inspiration behind suburban Sacramento's Galleria at Roseville.

The two-level, 1.1-million-sq.-ft. regional center is Chicago-based Urban Shopping Centers Inc.'s attempt to capture an under-served market. "Our development team was looking at various markets in the region when the city of Roseville approached us," says Jan Porter, senior vice president at Urban. "The local government offered full cooperation with the project. Roseville had already designated a parcel of land for a new mall, it was just waiting for the right developer to partner with."

In a year that saw many lifestyle, mixed-use and community centers blossom, the Galleria at Roseville was one of very few regional centers to debut. But the center's traffic counts since opening day have shown that consumers still enjoy the large, regional mall experience. "The Galleria welcomed its one-millionth visitor within two weeks of its grand opening on August 25, 2000," Porter says, "indicating the area's pent-up demand for a property like this."

Local consumers found The Galleria hard to resist, largely due to its lineup of anchors, including Nordstrom, JCPenney, Macy's and Sears, and its more than 120 specialty retailers, Porter says. Certain tenants, such as Crate & Barrel and J.Jill, made their first entries into the Northern California market at The Galleria.

The Galleria's eclectic design distinguishes it from its sister properties within Urban's portfolio, Porter says. "The architects had a freer reign on this project than they have been given in the past and the results are phenomenal."

Designed by Pasadena, Calif.-based MCG Architects, the project is a hybrid pairing the traditional, enclosed mall format with a trendy outdoor promenade. "It combines the traditional department store-anchored center with the outdoors in order to take full advantage of the great Northern California weather," says MCG CEO Rick Gaylord.

The promenade's lush greenery, outdoor fireplaces, fountains and play areas create an ideal community gathering spot. "You can expand the hours of a center's use six to seven hours by understanding human nature and creating the right design and landscaping," says Mark Tweed, former principal and director of design at MCG and current partner at Century City, Calif.-based HTH Group.

Inside and out, the Galleria can best be described as American Gothic meets 21st Century, Tweed says. Copper Corinthian columns, harlequin patterns, curving concourses and metal light cannons create a whimsical interior. Outside, the center is a pastiche of graphics and towers of varying heights. "From a distance, the Galleria has the presence of a small city with lots of up and down," says Tweed.

Inspired by the center's botanical name, roses and gardens played an important thematic role in the overall design. "Plants were babied to create the garden look," Tweed says. "There was generous use of green screen to allow plants to climb the walls."

The center's rosy environmental graphics, created by Atlanta-based Huie Design, are also complementary to its architecture. Huie's graphic roses perform wayfinding functions at the Galleria's various entrances and are reflected throughout the center in the form of lamp medallions, torchiere bases and railings. Huie Design even created tote bags, thermoses and other promotional materials reflecting the abstract roses found throughout the Galleria.

"Bringing the graphic designer and architects together at the earliest stages of the project allowed us to create a seamless environment," Sarah Huie says. Huie also created the center's logo: a fusion of floral and feminine imagery that depicts what might be a delicate rose or a winking damsel.

So what effect has design had on the Galleria's impressive traffic counts? A lot, according to the team. "The whimsy of the design is almost like an outlet mall, but every now and then you'll see a feature that says `No, no, I'm a high-end mall.' It's highbrow but not exclusionary. Sophisticated shoppers and the folks in their Tasmanian Devil t-shirts and shorts will be equally comfortable," Tweed says.

Memorable design has definitely made its mark on the Galleria at Roseville, Gaylord says. "This project is truly an example of how high design brings results. Mall owners are starting to learn investments in good design makes sense. In a crowded market, it can give a center the competitive edge."