Consumers raise the bar

The saying goes that two heads are better than one. But Atlanta-based Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates is betting that three firms are better than one. TVS recently joined a strategic collaboration with Seattle-based Callison Architecture and Honolulu-based Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo that aims to secure new work at home and overseas, and to branch into new markets. “Each firm has strength in certain areas, but with the firms in collaboration, clients can really get a new dynamic and high-powered expertise that they wouldn't get with a single firm,” says Mark Carter, a TVS senior principal.

A tool allowing TVS to net new business is the establishment of a new studio, the Store Design Practice, that will provide store planning and interior design services for department stores, anchor stores, specialty stores, airport retail, hospitality resort retail and entertainment retail. It joins three other studios within the firm that are devoted to retail. “It gives clients exceptional service and continuity from the beginning to the end of a project,” says Carter.

TVS is feeling the pressure from an ever more fickle public whose hankerings range from slick, cool space to hybrid centers where the traditional mall meets outdoor streetscape. “The mall experience has been declared a boring, old, tired format,” Carter says. “How you renovate those and give consumers what they're looking for is a big part of our work in renovation and expansions.”

One such project is the Florida Mall, Orlando, originally built in the 1980s. TVS is in phase two of a renovation and expansion to attract new tenants and service both the local population as well as foreign tourists coming to and from the airport en route to nearby Disneyworld. The sleek new image combines bright colors, animated floor patterns and Florida imagery, but in a universally attractive style that will appeal to its broad audience.

An example of the hybrid project is the Triangle Town Center just outside Richmond, Va. The plan tries to introduce elements locals are known to enjoy. It combines a traditional enclosed mall with community lifestyle space, outdoor activities, tree-lined pedestrian boulevards, a promenade along the water, outdoor restaurants and stages for promotions and concerts. A manmade stream — running throughout the site inside and outside — was used as a backbone to organize the various experiences. “Each side of the mall has its own personality and a variety of experiences tied to the community's interests. It makes coming to the center a more engaging, rich experience than people would get at a traditional mall,” says Carter.

Explaining the trend toward lifestyle centers and hybrid properties, Carter says, “People are looking for authenticity and an ability to combine a shopping need with the ability to make it a social, entertaining experience. They want quality, authenticity and social interaction and quality in how they spend their time. The customer is really raising the bar and everyone is trying to meet new needs.”