A unique component of Polaris Fashion Place will be a children's play area that Glimcher Realty Trust developed in partnership with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The 1,800-sq.-ft. area, named “The Zoo,” aims to entertain and educate children about endangered species. The Zoo is divided into four sections, with each focusing on the environment and animals of four different endangered ecosystems — water, the Savannah, the jungle and the forest.

Features include 17 animal sculptures and a 16-ft. treehouse with slides and a tunnel. The play area was designed by Jonathan Norby of Playhouse Creations Inc., Denver.

Beyond just offering a spot for play, The Zoo will be able to hook, through an audio-visual system, directly to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for distance learning programs.

“The kids can interact with and ask questions of the zookeeper and watch demos directly from different exhibits at the zoo,” says Linda Wardell, assistant general manager of Polaris Fashion Place. The partnership also includes appearances by Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In addition, a life-size soft-sculpture of Hanna will greet everyone entering the play area.

Chris Lavender, the mall's general manager, comments, “While play areas aren't unique in shopping centers, the novelty of this one will draw lots of consumers. It will enhance consumers' overall experience,” he says. “Moreover, developing relationships with community groups is part of being a good corporate citizen.”