End of an era: Will city centers make the great American mall a thing of the past?
By Angela Ruggiero
East Bay Times
12 November 2016
Photo courtesy San Jose Blog
The Bay Area is embracing what has come to be known as the Santana Row effect -- a nationwide planning trend that seeks to undo the great American enclosed mall and the cars that come with it. The concept is city center developments, generally with an Italian-style piazza or plaza at the heart of each one. Surrounded by open-air retail shops and restaurants with a mix of office space and residential units above, cities like Mountain View, San Ramon and Santa Clara have all broke ground on these city-center concepts, which some call the Santana Row effect.
San Jose’s Santana Row, built back in 2002, is a shining example of how successful these developments can be. On any given day, people stroll, sit and chat on benches, eat, shop and enjoy the Mediterranean-style architecture surrounding them. The concept of a city center is not exclusive to the Bay Area; city centers or “lifestyles centers” have been around for at least a decade and are popping up throughout the nation, according to Associate Professor of Architecture Chris Calott.
For years, city councils throughout the Bay Area have referred to Santana Row as the ideal when discussing plans or concepts for their own city centers. Part of the history of U.S. cities is for them to copy one another, especially successful traits, Calott said. “They all want one.”
This urbanist movement was a strong reaction against the suburban experience that America built some 50 years ago of a very car-dominated culture, and the city center has now become a mainstream real estate development or “cure-all” by city municipalities, according to Calott.
“It’s an instant town center for those who have either lost their historic core, or never had one,” Calott said.