Long Beach, California

Raising retail standards

Design is more important than ever to the success of retail, according to Sy Perkowitz, AIA, PE, president and CEO of Long Beach, Calif.-based Perkowitz + Ruth Architects. Perkowitz founded the firm 23 years ago with partner Steven J. Ruth, AIA, EVP.

Cities looking to attract commerce while building quality of life for residents are raising their standards with regard to design. And developers know that today's well educated and well traveled shopper is attracted to a shopping experience that delights as well as delivers products and services.

At Burbank Empire Center, a 900,000-sq.-ft. redeveloped retail space, developer Zelman Development Companies and the City of Burbank agree that the design — which pays tribute to the history of the site — has aided the center's success. Named “Best Commercial Architecture” in The Los Angeles Business Journal's 2002 Real Estate Awards, Burbank Empire Center recalls the industrial and aeronautical use of the land, which was formerly a Lockheed manufacturing site.

“The project looks like existing Lockheed buildings that were converted into retail uses, even though they were built new,” says Alan Pullman, AIA, senior associate and design director at Perkowitz + Ruth Architects. “We thought that was something the community could get behind and they loved it.”

The center's pylon signs, visible from adjacent roadways, are topped with 10-ft. to 12-ft. wide replicas of famous airplanes that were once built on the site. Buildings are clad in a combination of industrial materials, including corrugated metal and painted concrete block. Aware that the industrial theme could appear drab, designers at Perkowitz + Ruth Architects chose a variety of bright colors for the project. “We wanted it to be a happy place, where moms would want to go to shop,” says Pullman.

At The Grove in Los Angeles, Caruso Affiliated Holdings made a striking departure from the enclosed, multi-level mall format. Distinctive two- and three-story buildings with street-level entries, outdoor balcony dining and store window displays create a vibrant streetscape. As an entertainment anchor for the center, Pacific's The Grove Theatres takes its cue from the grand movie palaces of early Los Angeles.

“Luxurious, distressed materials were chosen to authenticate the building's blend of Art Deco and Classical design styles,” says Marios Savopoulos, AIA, principal with Perkowitz + Ruth Architects who worked with Caruso Affiliated Holdings to create the theater design.

The theatres' lobby is open to the public and incorporates mahogany cabinetry and columns, Art Deco-style Venetian glass chandeliers, mosaic floors, specially created pieces of art and generously sized designer club chairs. A coffee and dessert bar opens onto the space and the revival of Madame Wu's restaurant overlooks the lobby from the balcony.

Since its opening in March 2002, the high volume of movie patrons attracted to the experience have resulted in the theater becoming one of the top performers in Los Angeles.

Mercantile East Shopping Center, currently under construction with a planned holiday 2002 opening, is designed by Perkowitz + Ruth Architects for Westar Associates. Part of the master-planned Ladera Ranch community, the retail district's design combines wide sidewalks, benches, street lamps, and traditional storefront design to create a new Main Street.