Closure of several tenants at one of America's most closely watched entertainment retail venues, Sony Metreon in San Francisco, spawned rumors that the high-tech entertainment center was failing. But perception and reality aren't on the same track, says Kirsten Maynard, the project's senior manager of communications.

“We're seeing 25,000 to 35,000 guests a day,” she reports. “We estimated 5 million visitors a year. Last year we had 6.2 million.”

The only current vacancy is from a failed restaurant, she says. In fact, demand has been so strong that management reconfigured the layout from 270,000 sq. ft. of GLA at opening in 1999 to 285,000 sq. ft. today, she adds.

One of three ballyhooed high-tech exhibits, The Way Things Work, did close, but because it was played out, Maynard explains. “Our strategy encourages change,” she notes. “We depend on local clientele, and to get people to return you always have to offer something new.”

The replacement was Action Theater, a 175-seat multimedia center operated by Bandai Entertainment, the nation's largest anime company. The Cypress, Calif.-based company maintains an accompanying retail shop.

Maynard says Metreon favors short-term leases focused on promotional and marketing partnerships. Fairfield, Calif., candy maker Jelly Belly, for example, installed an interactive shop to build customer recognition and cross-market with other tenants, including a 16-screen Loew's Theater. This fall a local radio station will set up a public broadcast space to (hopefully) boost its ratings.