Welcome to the third edition of Retail Traffic's Retail Architecture Review. This supplement includes our 20th Superior Achievement in Design and Imaging Awards and our annual Leaders in Retail Architecture supplement.

The SADI awards recognize outstanding achievement in creating beautiful and successful retail environments. The winners are those architects who craft memorable places that put the magic back in shopping, enhance or redefine a retail brand, capture a trend particularly well or solve a seemingly insurmountable problem.

This year's winners are no exception.

However, the discussion among judges during the SADI awards this year were influenced by the great challenges facing the industry. Stores are closing. Some properties will fail. Others will be in desperate need of renovation or redevelopment. Furthermore, in the current context, the homogeneity that has plagued the retail real estate sector may come to haunt the industry. Retail centers that are truly unique and provide something extra to tenants and customers will be the ones that survive and thrive.

In that vein, a rather unlikely project emerged as this year's Grand SADI winner. In year's past, SADI judges have recognized luxurious projects that show where every dollar was spent in design and construction. This year, a more modest project, a center of less than 100,000 square feet in Venice, Calif., took the top honor.

From the surface, the Lincoln & Rose project designed by Studio One Eleven at Perkowitz+Ruth Architects doesn't appear all that special. The center, owned by Combined Properties, includes fairly pedestrian tenants — a laundromat, a dollar store, a drug store and an organic grocer.

But that's the point.

The center has a tenant base typical of thousands of other properties across the country. What sets it apart is that the owners and architects opted to go the extra mile. The stores are not cookie-cutter concepts. Instead, the stores thoroughly fit into the Venice, Calif., context in which they sit. And it was all done on a modest budget. It serves as a stark example that just because you're building a run-of-the-mill center, you don't have to go with a plain vanilla design.

Similarly, a project that garnered an honorable mention, the La Alameda Shopping Center in Walnut Park, Calif., makes a similar statement. The project, built by Primestor Development, caters to a poor population. One in four people in the immigrant community near the site live below the poverty line and 16.4 percent of the population is unemployed. But the owner and architect built a project that takes local design cues and offers a space for the community to gather.

Lastly, Westfield Southcenter, one of many enclosed retail center renovations submitted this year, was the only project recognized in that category because it clearly looks like it belongs in the Pacific Northwest. Further, it is set up to further connect to the community — perhaps with the addition of residences in the future.

All three of these projects illustrate important themes in this year's competition. Context is important. Projects should not look like they were dropped on a site from outer space with no connection to the community in which they sit. The projects break the molds for what shopping centers and regional malls can look like. This ingenuity and originality was rewarded.

Overall, we hope you enjoy these and other profiles in this year's supplement.