Retail Traffic

Pasadena Style

What do the Pasadena Symphony, California Institute of Technology, the Norton Simon Museum, Tournament of Roses and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have in common apart from being located in Pasadena, an affluent suburb of Los Angeles with a population of about 140,000? Well, for one thing, they will all be participating in this month's three-day grand opening celebration of TrizecHahn's newest project, Paseo Colorado, in the heart of downtown Pasadena.

It's a rare achievement for a developer to attract such high-profile participants to the launch of a new shopping center, but Paseo Colorado is not just a new shopping center. It is a $130-million, mixed-use project designed to play a critical role in the continuing downtown revival of one of Southern California's most vibrant and sophisticated communities.

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard refers to the project as a “community centerpiece” and according to Rick Froese, TrizecHahn senior vice president, development, the developer envisions Paseo Colorado becoming the gathering place for the entire city.

“I know that's the kind of trite statement developers often make, but we truly believe we have accomplished that,” he says. “One of our mottoes is this is a live-work-play environment. Theoretically you don't ever have to leave.”

Located along Colorado Boulevard, the route of the world-famous Tournament of Roses Parade, which will pass directly in front of the center, Paseo Colorado is a determinedly urban project combining 565,000-sq.-ft. of retail, dining and entertainment on the lower levels with nearly 400 apartments above. It also includes about 10,000-sq.-ft. of office space.

The three-block “village” promises to become one of the most popular attractions in a community already recognized as a cultural, educational and entertainment nexus of Southern California.

“We used our retail development skills to create a new generation of mixed-use urban projects,” says TrizecHahn President Lee Wagman. “What we have found is cities themselves are embracing this new model, the street-oriented, urban village mixing entertainment, retail and residential in a single setting.”

One of the ironies of Paseo Colorado is the failed project it replaces was built by The Hahn Company, TrizecHahn's predecessor. In Froese's words, the former project, known as Plaza Pasadena, “epitomized the paradigm for regional malls of its day.” Designed by celebrated retail architect Jon Jerde when he was with Charles Kober & Associates and winner of several design awards, Plaza Pasadena adhered to the mold of the typical regional mall — a monolithic enclosed structure with a largely blank perimeter and shops accessible only from the interior.

Unfortunately, Froese points out, the paradigm was designed for outlying locations, not city centers. “It was all pretty much inward looking, which is fine when you have a sea of parking and can mask it with heavy landscaping,” he says. “But when you drop it in the middle of Main Street, it suddenly looks very unfriendly.”

Thus was born in 1997 a plan to redevelop the property, transforming it into a project that would work both economically and serve as a source of civic pride rather than public derision.

In the early stages, the latter was more important than the former. The city had already formed a task force of downtown property owners, community organizations and public officials to create a set of redevelopment guidelines for the entire Civic Center area. The guidelines included four goals specific to the Plaza Pasadena site.

The first was to re-establish the integrity of a downtown master plan produced in 1923 by Edward Bennett, a protégé of Daniel Burnham and one of the nation's most prominent planners in between the two world wars. The crux of the plan was a grand axis along Garfield Street connecting the Pasadena Civic Auditorium at one end to the Pasadena Public Library at the other.

The construction of Plaza Pasadena interrupted this axis by building the shopping center over a critical stretch of Garfield. Where previously people could stand at the auditorium and see all the way to the library, now there was a glass wall blocking the view. The task force wanted it removed.

The second goal was the introduction of additional uses other than retail to encourage a lively environment throughout the day. Goal three was to reorient the center to the street rather than an interior corridor, with shops opening to city sidewalks. The final goal was to turn the reopened Garfield Street into a public gathering place.

To assure itself of meeting the goals in an acceptable manner, Froese says TrizecHahn held more than 50 public meetings to get input from local residents, officials and business people. As a result of its painstaking effort, the project sailed through the approval process, receiving unanimous support from every board and commission with jurisdiction over it, no small achievement in a city renowned for its often vociferous opposition to development.

“People were very much behind this project,” says Mayor Bogaard. “TrizecHahn really did its homework. In keeping with the spirit of innovation, Paseo Colorado embodies the character and quality of Pasadena.”

Despite the ease of approval, initial project plans had fatal economic flaws. They met the community's needs but not the developer's. According to Froese, it was not until the third try that TrizecHahn produced a scheme that fulfilled fiscal as well as civic demands. In fact, the city was so enthusiastic about the plan it agreed to float a bond to pay for the upgrade of underground parking and two satellite garages that would serve both Paseo Colorado and the Civic Center in general.

For the residential portion of the project, TrizecHahn signed on Post Properties, Inc., one of the nation's foremost developers of urban apartment projects. According to Post Properties, Inc. President Dave Stockert, the Atlanta-based REIT gladly came on board.

“Southern California generally has been a target of ours and the opportunity to do a project in Pasadena was especially welcome. It has a great residential history and we wanted to be part of that,” he says.

Obstacles to development remained, however. TrizecHahn still had to convince the lender holding the note on Plaza Pasadena of the viability of the new scheme. Of particular concern was the fact demolition of the existing structure meant the property would produce no income for almost two years.

In keeping with the spirit of innovation, Paseo Colorado embodies the character and quality of Pasadena.
— Pasadena Mayor Bogaart

According to Wagman, a development partner that held part interest in the existing center was equally concerned about a long fallow period and had to be bought out. Furthermore, Macy's and JCPenney also still needed persuading. In the end, Macy's was won over, deciding to open a full-line department store in the Broadway building, but JCPenney withdrew from the site entirely.

Rather than search for a second department store, says Froese, TrizecHahn sought out other kinds of anchors, including Pacific Theatres, which agreed to build a 14-screen cinema; Gelson's The Super Market, an Encino, Calif.-based specialty grocer that committed to opening a 37,000-sq.-ft. market; and New York-based Equinox Fitness Clubs, which is building a 25,000-sq.-ft. facility.

The absence of a second department store appears to have had no impact on leasing. Retailers in general were anxious to sign on, says Paseo Colorado General Manager Jennifer Mares, who reports the project was 90% committed two months ahead of opening.

“Our space went really quickly and early on. The Pasadena market is extremely hot for retail. It's a proven market with an established regional draw,” she says.

The positive response hardly came as a surprise. Wagman says the development was largely driven by major retail chains looking to gain entry to urban markets.

“Our customers, the tenants, wanted to find opportunities to return to urban areas in non-mall settings. They want spaces that allow the brands to stand alone and appeal to a different psychographic than suburban centers,” he says.

About 75% of the tenants, including such retailers as BCBG Max Azria, Cole Haan, Coach, MAC Cosmetics and J. Jill, are new to the market, reports Mares. Another key component is a collection of local and regional retailers with a limited number of other outlets. The challenge in landing local tenants, Mares notes, was not to steal from other Pasadena retail areas. “We tried to find local merchants looking to open stores that would complement rather than compete with their existing ones,” she says.

For example, Flutter, a local women's apparel and accessories store owned by a native Pasadenan, will open a store offering an expanded line of merchandise including shoes and home decor.

Thanks to the city's previous efforts at creating a coherent and vibrant core, Paseo Colorado comes with a built-in customer base. In addition to the 387 residential units included as part of the project, there are an additional 3,600 apartments already built, in construction or planned in and around downtown.

Downtown Pasadena also has a solid employment base, with approximately 100,000 people working within a three-mile radius. TrizecHahn estimates the overall trade area at 948,000 residents and says the average annual household income is about $70,468.

Equally important to the project's prospects is the fact that 2 million people from outside the trade area visit Pasadena annually. The biggest single attractions are the Rose Bowl football game and the Tournament of Roses Parade held each New Year's Day. The marketing team hopes to persuade broadcasters to locate the parade broadcast booth at the project, providing exposure to many millions of home viewers.

The city's permanent attractions include the Norton Simon Museum, Huntington Library Arts Collections and Botanical Gardens and more than 15 other museums and galleries. Directly across from Paseo Colorado, the 3,000-seat Civic Auditorium draws audiences to everything from symphony and ballet performances to nationally televised awards shows. The adjoining 65,000-sq.-ft. Pasadena Center hosts more than 200,000 convention and conference visitors annually, with a schedule that keeps it running 300 days a year. The Pasadena Arts Center also has a full calendar of events, as do several live theaters. The city's three colleges provide activities for more than 30,000 students and their friends and families.

In terms of retail, the already established Old Pasadena district, which is barely two blocks from Paseo Colorado, attracts thousands of visitors daily. In fact, says Froese, in developing the project, Trizec-Hahn took its cue from the success of the historic district.

Paseo Colorado tells the city, ‘I'm a part of you and you're a part of me.’ It totally blurs the line between the shopping center and its surrounding areas.”

“Old Pasadena's ascension coincided with Plaza Pasadena's decline,” he relates. “It had everything the mall didn't. It was open air with a very urban feel and a unique collection of buildings. It was a place to see and be seen. It had energy and style. We saw those things and realized this is why people like to come to Pasadena, so let's be an extension of that.”

Pasadena's prize attraction is no doubt the city itself. Few communities in Southern California have done more to maintain their architectural heritage. Both commercial and residential streets are lined with prime examples of California Arts and Crafts and Mission Revival buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Project architects Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn (EEK) and landscape architects Melendrez Design Partners have taken care to ensure the project design not only fits into the city's heritage but contributes to Pasadena's architectural renown.

According to Gordon Olschlager, the lead architect for EEK, his firm did a visual survey of the architecture throughout the Civic Center area, looking at both public and commercial buildings. Olschlager says the team also strove not to end up with just a mall turned inside-out.

“We looked at fenestration, rooflines, cornices, materials — all the elements that give structures their defining characteristics. From that we derived a vocabulary to use with Paseo Colorado,” he says. The aim, he explains, was not to duplicate the past but “to strive for compatible styles with a contemporary edge.”

“In the end we had 15 different facade treatments and a variety of massing. Some portions are only two stories, while others are six. There are step-backs, material changes, different colors, a variety of techniques to make the project appear as if it were a series of buildings developed over time by different owners,” he says.

Lauren Melendrez of Melendrez Design Partners says her team also took their cue from the surrounding cityscape for materials and plants to use in the landscape design, but the bigger challenge was creating a sense of intimacy and grace without sacrificing traffic flow.

“Our approach was to break down the spaces to a comfortable scale and create a village atmosphere and the feeling like the project has been there a long time,” she says. “When you're in Europe or Latin America, there are little surprises at every turn, and we tried to create that feeling here.” According to Froese, the end product, is “absolutely fantastic.” What most pleases him, he says, is the way the project “embraces” the community.

“The sense of community is kind of like our mantra for Paseo Colorado,” he emphasizes. “We believe we have achieved that here. The project tells the city, ‘I'm a part of you and you're a part of me.’ It totally blurs the line between the shopping center and its surrounding areas.”

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