Flooring The Consumer on Simple Marketing Now

Please visit Flooring The Consumer's new home on SimpleMarketingNow.com where you can subscribe to receive updates to blog articles in real time!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Southlake Town Square - A Lifestyle Center

I'm a city girl at heart -- which is why I'm so intrigued with Lifestyle Centers and on a quest to experience more of them.

Malls serve a purpose, but the buzz you get from city stores make them pale in comparison. Others must feel similarly, otherwise we wouldn't be seeing Lifestyle Centers - an evolution in the retail experience, a step beyond the traditional enclosed mall retail concept, and an attempt at recapturing urban magic - generating so much interest and attention.

I located my latest Lifestyle Center on the outskirts of Dallas, TX, in a place called Southlake Town Square.

[Previous postings on Lifestyle Centers include Atlanta's Atlantic Station - A Lifestyle Center, and, with Scott Moore's expert perspective, An Architect's View of Better Lifestyle Centers.]

Southlake Town Square is this development's official website. On the map above, the main highway appears at the top of the image, parallel to these words. Across that highway [and not part of the development] is a more traditional strip mall with fancy grocery store and other amenities. Some of the photos below I took from that vantage point.

The development occupies 130 acres and intermingles shopping, eating, working and living in a very attractive layout organized around local county government and public spaces. This large formal building on the right is the Town Hall and provides not only a destination, but also a sense of place.

It opened in March 1999 and currently includes 10 city blocks over 54 acres, with a next phase of development underway that brings movie theaters, a Hilton hotel, additional retailers and more townhouses.

According to Great Public Spaces, which includes Southlake Town Square [site includes some nice photos and details], the development "demonstrates the successful application of key smart growth principles including a mix of land uses, compact building design, creation of a walkable environment with a distinct sense of place, and involving citizen and stakeholder participation in development decisions".

Furthermore, "the project's historic downtown grid pattern embodies the traditions of a Texas courthouse downtown. An interconnected network of streets, short blocks, and buildings at the sidewalk all create a compact, pedestrian-scaled public realm."

The inclusion of municipal/civic buildings [rather than department stores] [e.g., post office, library and courthouse] as anchors significantly affected my perception of Southlake Town Square. [This Jan/Feb 2006 article from The NAWIC Image titled Shop 'til you Drop specifically references Southlake Town Center and how it has "brought the town square back to life."]

Yes, it's new. Yes, it's planned. But, it doesn't feel as unnatural as Atlantic Station felt. Although it's chock full of retail options [check out the retail guide] including some surprises like Coldwater Creek - The Spa!, the stores look better distributed around the complex [retail in map above is dark brown]. Parking also seemed less sparse, with more diagonal spots vs. parallel parking spots only at Atlantic Station.

An observation: when I motor through the suburbs, I depend on signage to signal specific retail establishments. This is not the case here where I spotted no overt retailer signs. The website carries information. The brochure I had details most of the website information. Other than via those two tools [which don't really work when you're driving], it's difficult to appreciate all of the options available without walking by or driving through every street. For example, there is a Container Store. Unless I know to turn onto North Carroll Avenue [on the right hand side above], I would never chance upon it.

Not a big deal. Simply a paradigm shift in suburban shopping patterns. Especially when compared to strip malls which have become more popular as we've become more time stressed. They allow us to efficiently get in/out of specific stores. They can be spotted from a distance. They tend not to be about lingering.

Lifestyle Centers, in contrast, pull us back into another zone, where time pressures are suspended; the best experience truly is on foot, and ideally you're from the neighborhood, and return frequently.

Now, as with Atlantic Station and IKEA, Southlake Town Square does accommodate destination stores [e.g., The Container Store] with dedicated parking, but in a more integrated manner. Streets are similarly narrow with many one way streets. Traffic jams will absolutely happen while people are pulling in/out of parking spaces. However, retail spaces seem spread out over a larger area, and congestion possibly less intense.

Other observations: the variety of architectural elements is fun as you can see from the corner turret in the photo above. The public spaces truly engage, with wonderful painted cows strewn about.... The last time I saw such fun cows was in Denver [see Mooving On To Greatness] last August.

In its write-ups, Southlake Town Square makes a big deal about its traditions which contribute to creating a sense of place and community:
+ Art in the Square at the end of April
+ July 3rd Independance Day Fireworks Show
+ Oktoberfest in early October
+ Mid-November through December: Home for the Holidays

This article from the August 2006 issue of Urban Land titled The life in lifestyle centers. What are the ingredients for a successful lifestyle center? by Jeff Gunning examines 4 projects to better understand characteristics and success factors:

+ Kierland Commons, Scottsdale, AZ;
+ The Grove, in Hollywood, CA;
+ Legacy Town Center, Plano, TX [I wish I had known about that one while in Dallas!];
+ The Market Common, in Clarendon, VA [note to self: visit on next DC trip].

From the article:
- All four "capture the vitality of a traditional main street through some replication of organic growth, urban density and a mix of uses."
- They "position shopping as less of a destination-focused errand and as more of a leisure activity."
- "The integration of residential space appears to be a component more likely to make or break a project."
--> creates buzz and sense of security.
- "Most important... is a design that maximizes accessibility. Accessibility focuses on creating connections .... and seamless access to businesses."
- "A lifestyle center depends on a balanced choreography of its users and the individual creative identities of its tenants to shape its image and atmosphere."
- "The sense of place created by a lifestyle center.. offers its own distinct ... flavor. The layout of a lifestyle center is often focused inward, enclosing a hub of activity that appears to have little visible relation to the surrounding architectural context."
- Building heights and street widths "shape a simple, human-scaled atmosphere where tenants function as individual building blocks..."
- "Landscaping as a unifying element."

And, a fascinating observation: "..on one level, the streamlined architecture of all four projects seems to function as the brick-and-mortar answer to online shopping, a technological innovation that has contributed to the decline of the traditional mall. In a lifestyle center, visitors are not required to pass through layers of thematic elements before they can connect with retailers and brands - further removing barriers between customers and the products they desire." I hadn't thought of it that way.

This 2003 article by Charles C. Bohl titled The Second Coming of the American Town Center examines the evolution of the town center starting in the 1980s, the drivers [demographics, retail innovations, public policies] and the benefits. It mentions and how well town center stores perform. In addition to record opening-day sales at several Southlake Town Square national retailers, it has "provided a once centerless suburban community with a home for its City Hall, government offices and post office, and quickly become a popular setting for community events. Over 6,000 residents turned out for the first Fourth of July celebration and over 20,000 for the second; and an estimated 25,000 people attended a weekend Art in the Square festival the first year, and with 40,000 the following year."

Note in the conclusion: "...Nothing can substitute for good site location, a sound market analysis, and a carefully designed tenant mix and leasing strategies, but town centers have an additional dimension that boils down to 'Walt Disney World 101.' After decades of painstaking surveys and analysis, Disney's management team discovered that it was not the 'attractions' that were fueling the repeat business that is absolutely essential to the economic success of the company's theme parts -- it was the overall quality of the built environment and the pleasure people receive from strolling, sitting and enjoying the place itself. The same is true for town centers and main streets."

Finally, this presentation includes references to a multitude of other Lifestyle Centers around the country. If you've experienced any of these, please do share your impressions. I'm intrigued with the possibilities that Lifestyle Centers [or the next evolution] hold for us as consumers, as marketers, as retailers in general, and as flooring retailers specifically.

Added 8/8/08: Two days in Stepford -- Town Square, Southlake, Texas from Forrester's Groundswell blog offers a visitor's perspective.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...