At Legacy Place, the design mission was to create a destination that evoked a neighborhood experience. The architects and developers wanted a space where people come together—for chance meetings on a street corner, conversations with friends while grocery shopping, lunch dates at a café, a night out at the movies, and so on. The team took this approach across all shopping center components, from store design, to the variety of building types and storefronts, along with convenient parking, and welcoming, landscaped sidewalks for customers to enjoy.

The design concept, driven through by developer WS Development and architect Prellwitz Chilinski Associates Inc., began with the location itself. Legacy Place is on the fringe of the urban core and immediately adjacent to suburban towns. That meant designing a project with an urban feel and urban uses that, at the same time, is welcoming to suburban and urban customers alike. In fact, the developers positioned Legacy Place as a “A New Urban/Suburban Experience.” This conceit drove the design.

Among the challenges for the $200 million project were combining modern convenience and pedestrian character while building a significant amount of retail space within a tightly contained 31-acre site. In addition, the schemed needed to accommodate the unique needs of a diverse range of tenants while reflecting a unified site environment—in both day and evening hours.

The goal was achieved and the team’s holistic design approach is visible upon entering the center. Six architecturally distinct buildings come into view, each set along two pedestrian-friendly squares that evoke the feel of a neighborhood that grew over time. This design strategy accommodates a wide variety of tenants and individual expression – from multi-level national retailers such as Urban Outfitters to local sidewalk cafes.

To overcome the challenge of a tightly confined site, first, WS Development convinced powerful anchors to go upstairs. Showcase Cinema de Lux and Borders are both on a second level, while others occupy two-level spaces. Second, the majority of the customer parking is structured. At an expense premium exceeding 50 percent, WS Development chose to place the garage inside the project, lined with retail below, rather than behind or to the side. This placement is more convenient for the customer and also creates an important sense of arrival; in glass-enclosed vertical cores, customers first experience the center from above, and then they ride elevators down into its heart.

These approaches allowed WS Development to build 675,000 square feet of buildings on about 31 acres of land; a density more than twice what it would build in a strictly suburban location.

Lighting, building materials, and landscaping unify the site’s identity throughout its 17-hour daily operation. The buildings share a common palate of warm colors and enduring building materials including granite, one of Dedham’s historic commodities. Coordinated signage—including sweeping calligraphic elements on the parking garage—orient visitors and come vividly to life in the evening through vibrant LEDs and twinkling overhead festival lighting.

Despite opening amidst a dismal retail economy in August 2009, Legacy Place is currently 99 percent leased. Revenue has exceeded expectations, with many of its 60 merchants selling beyond projections.

Project Name: Legacy Place

Location: Dedham, Mass.

Square Footage: 675,000 square feet

Architects: Prellwitz Chilinski Associates Inc.

Owner: WS Development

Construction: Suffolk Construction

Legal: Goulston & Storrs

Site Engineer: Allen & Major Associates Inc.

Landscape Architect: Pressley Associates Inc.

Site Lighting & Electrical: Engineering Advantage Inc.

Geotechnical Engineer: GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc.

Parking Consultant: Walker Parking Consultants