Los Angeles, California

Integrating social amenities

Nadel Architects Inc. is a multi-disciplined architectural firm with divisions for retail, office, hotel, multi-family residential, public/institutional and interiors. Throughout the 28-year history of the firm's retail division, Los Angeles, Calif.-based Nadel has completed more than 1,000 projects located throughout the United States and has earned a reputation as a leader in the design of suburban neighborhood centers, power centers, multi-story urban centers, and mixed-use developments.

The retail division's long history has enabled the firm to spot trends as they evolve, allowing Nadel to remain on the forefront of change. One trend that has continued to escalate is the integration of social amenities into retail centers. Design in the past focused primarily on tenant mix and it's efficiencies. “As the amount of leisure time of the average consumer continues to lessen, our design challenge is to create a shopping environment that allows the consumer to incorporate shopping and free time into one experience,” says Jerry Kramer, executive vice president of Nadel's retail division. “Our goal is to provide a retail center that meets the consumers needs, while also providing an atmosphere that encourages social interaction.”

The evolution of the social experience can be seen from the neighborhood center to the larger power center developments. “We wish to help reconnect the community,” says Kramer. “Our projects try to create places for shoppers to spend time by utilizing seating, landscaping, water features, color, materials, lighting and scale as design devices.” Thus, the trend in power center design now incorporates, as a part of the overall center, open-air plazas that encourage shoppers to remain on-site before, during and after.

Renaissance Center, a 1 million-sq.-ft. power center being developed in Corona, Calif. has taken the inclusion of social amenities to a new level. Within the 113-acre center, Nadel designers, along with developer Castle and Cooke, included a central plaza within the entertainment district that provides a community meeting spot. Turf areas landscaped with mature trees and trellises encourage picnicking while hardscape seating areas provide for weekly community concerts and events. A central spine with water features leads out from the plaza drawing patrons to a cluster of restaurants and retail shops, and ultimately, to the power center tenants.

Developers and communities alike are requesting more socially interactive designs for their supermarket-based neighborhood centers. Weston Communities Corp.'s Village Square at Valley Center, located in Northern San Diego County, is a perfect example of a neighborhood center that has successfully integrated work, live and play. The site incorporates 73 townhomes, 30,000 sq. ft. of office space and 150,000 sq. ft. of market/drug tenants. A large park — like courtyard provides a central gathering space within the development while heavily landscaped pathways link the three design components.

The Promenade at Town Center in Valencia, Calif., is another example of a market anchored neighborhood center that has placed atmosphere at a premium. The design of the 190,000-sq.-ft. center encourages walking and gathering by patrons through an abundance of lushly landscaped walkways that are wider than those of the typical neighborhood center. The walkways guide shoppers past shops to three plaza fountain areas, one of which opens into a lagoon.