Developers apply two criteria to the challenge of selecting sites for entertainment-retail centers. First comes an analysis of fundamentals. How many people live in the surrounding region? How much money do they earn? Does the transportation network provide easy access for adequate numbers of people? How many tourists visit the region every year? Where do the tourists go, and what do they do?

Second, developers evaluate a feature called context. What surrounds the potential site and defines the area? Does the character of the area suggest a compelling theme and identity, something that will enable the center to make an emotional connection with the market?

San Francisco has a certain context and character that differs from that of Miami. An entertainment-retail site in either city would have to build on the surrounding context to connect the design and theme of the center to the local environment in a natural and compelling way.

While the fundamentals that apply to entertainment-retail site selection largely resemble those used to select most shopping center sites, their application to entertainment-retail development differs in two important ways.

An entertainment-retail site must deliver much larger population and income figures than a site selected purely for its retail sales potential. And the people behind the numbers must have some emotional connection to the context or character of the site.

In addition, entertainment-retail sites tend to be smaller than retail sites selected for traditional mall development. While a mall may span 800,000 sq. ft. to more than 2 million sq. ft., most entertainment-retail centers fall between 300,000 sq. ft. and 700,000 sq. ft. and rely on the surrounding context to fill out the area's attractions.

Selecting an entertainment-retail site requires science and art, number-crunching and judgment. It must go beyond the considerations applied to conventional shopping center placement and tap into the animating spirit of the place.

Gut feelings about New Rochelle In 1994, Robert Greene trusted his gut feelings when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. auctioned a 6.5-acre site at bargain rates. Located one-quarter mile off I-95 in New York's wealthy Westchester County, the site housed a failing mall in downtown New Rochelle, N.Y.

Greene and three others made a quick decision to purchase the site. Forming NewRoc Associates LP, with offices in White Plains, N.Y., Greene, Louis Cappelli and Ken Narva serve as co-managing general partners, while Matt Kroin is the general partner.

In justifying the purchase, Greene points to the demographics: 477,000 people live within a five-mile radius. Average household income is $62,092. "We knew that was enough to support something," he says. "So we bought the site."

NewRoc's principals also knew that city officials wanted to revitalize downtown New Rochelle. In fact, the city quickly gave the $190 million project its full support.

To date, the project has attracted a 130,000 sq. ft. Regal Cinemas megaplex, a 150,000 sq. ft. Sports Plus Family Entertainment Center with ice skating rinks, a 25,000 sq. ft. Bally Total Fitness, a 15,000 sq. ft. Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, and a Super Stop & Shop grocery.

Along the way, the project has grown from its original 6.5-acre, 500,000 sq. ft. entertainment-retail concept to include a 2,200 sq. ft. parking lot, a 110,000 sq. ft. office building and a 120,000 sq. ft. extended-stay hotel.

The center, now called New Roc City, opens in August.

What makes Greene believe that this development will succeed when the previous mall failed? Context.

"You can put a mall almost anywhere that major arteries serving a large trade area converge," Greene says. "But malls also require a lot of land and are usually located in the suburbs. Malls are destinations. Customers go to the mall, do their business, get in the car and go back home.

"This is a downtown location with other attractions for people," he continues. "Our project aims to create a critical mass for entertainment and also to have a synergy with other merchants, who are often willing to upgrade their offerings and create opportunities for linked trips."

Architecture for the project completes the context. A well-established suburb of New York, New Rochelle connects emotionally to the city. The project's architecture will tap into that connection by re-creating the look of downtown Manhattan in the 1920s.

The plot thickens at 90210 Some sites simply announce their suitability for entertainment-retail development. The demographics crowd clamors for attention, and the context cries out for a connection. Take the $385 million Hollywood & Highland project, being developed jointly by TrizecHahn Development Corp. of San Diego, Calif., and the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles.

Located just below the famous sign set in the Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood & Highland project will draw from a five-mile demographic circle containing the most affluent and influential neighborhoods and tourist attractions in California and the nation.

This is the 90210 zip code, with a population of 22,900 people and an average household income of $235,200. Within the entire trading area of Los Angeles County, the population is 9.4 million and the average household income is $57,900.

According to a study commissioned by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, 19.3 million people visited the community last year. About 9 million of these visitors live in Southern California; another 10.2 million people were visiting Los Angeles County, with 1.4 million of these people staying in Hollywood.

Per-capita visitor spending in Los Angeles County as a whole runs to about $94 per day. In Hollywood, that number rises to $165. Last year, visitors to Hollywood spent a total of $1.3 billion.

"Hollywood & Highland is the best location in Hollywood," proclaims Jack Illes, vice president of strategic development for TrizecHahn. "It is a real place and also a mythic place with a strong entertainment heritage."

The project will include restaurants, studio showcase stores, unique retail shops, a multiplex theater with up to 14 screens, a grand staircase highlighting the forecourts and public spaces, a 415-room hotel, and the crown jewel: a live broadcast theater slated to be the future home of the Academy Awards presentations. The architecture will aspire to re-create the glamour and cachet characteristic of Hollywood, both in terms of people who live there and entertainment-industry professionals who work there.

At root, Hollywood & Highland is a revitalization site. "For years, Hollywood Boulevard was the retail and entertainment district for the surrounding community and all of the Southland," Illes says. "All of Southern California went to Hollywood to see first-run films because they were released there first."

Hollywood & Highland seeks to recapture that entertainment heritage for the affluent surrounding community, while giving the region's 10 million visitors another reason to come to Hollywood.

In Las Vegas, but not of Las Vegas If Hollywood & Highland reflects the mythic context of the entertainment industry, Desert Passage taps into the imaginary dream-world that characterizes Las Vegas.

Another TrizecHahn project, the 462,000 sq. ft. Desert Passage will encircle the 2,600-room Aladdin Hotel and an adjoining 7,000-seat performing arts theater. Retail and entertainment offerings will total 150 establishments.

"The interesting thing about Las Vegas is that all context here is created," Illes says. "In response to this, our concept for Desert Passage is to create a travel adventure, from Gibraltar at the gates to Europe to India and the gateway to the East." In between, visitors will pass through the Lost City, Sultan's Palace and Music Quarter.

Desert Passage will draw on a surrounding population of 1.2 million residents with an average household income of $54,484. Visitors currently total 30 million, with 40 million expected in 2000. Visitors stay an average of 4.7 days and 3.7 nights and spend $110 per shopping trip.