In the last two weeks, things have started to pick up. Just today, reports from Salt Lake City show GGP’s intentions to (I guess) raze the Cottonwood Mall (1962 vintage) and develop a mixed use community on the 57 acres. In contrast to the work at Natick, I believe there is some good things happening at Cottonwood (and more importantly, good things that could be translated back here to Columbia). As reported by Mike Gorrell in the Salt Lake Tribune:
General Growth Properties hired the architectural firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. to design the project, citing its urban planning experience in developing 300 new and existing communities in the United States and overseas. The architectural firm, which has offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., has been working with authorities in Louisiana and Mississippi to help communities rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk said the mall is envisioned to be a community whose internal streets will feature retail at the ground level, and will be oriented to afford pedestrians striking views of Mount Olympus and Twin Peaks.
Retail space will be topped by commercial offices and some higher-density housing units in the center of the new development, with various types of housing - from a few single-family dwellings to town houses and condominiums - flanking existing neighborhoods to the east and south.
More green space around Big Cottonwood Creek will create a parklike atmosphere, she added.
"The creek can be much more than it has been," said Plater-Zyberk, characterizing the project as "retail areas of a past age being revitalized as part of the neighborhood that grew up around them."
Anyone following the planning world knows that Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co is one of the premier new urban planning firms. They are best known locally for their work at the Kentlands in Montgomery County.
Secondly, initial renderings shown on TV-station KSL’s website give the perception of a site in which the pedestrian has priority over the automobile.
As per usual, all in life is not perfect. GGP has no specifics to offer on the proposed project. Again from the Salt Lake Tribune:
General Growth Properties, Inc., the Chicago-based owner of the aging mall on the southeast corner of 4800 South and Highland Drive, on Thursday unveiled long-awaited - but still quite nebulous - plans for Cottonwood Mall that combine retail space, offices and residential units.
The envisioned cost of the project, for instance, was not disclosed. "A lot of money" was as far as Kris Longson, General Growth Properties vice president of development, was willing to go.
Nor did he say whether the new mall would have as much space dedicated to retail as the existing, 45-year-old mall - roughly 730,000 square feet of leasable space. "Retail [space] may be a little less," he offered.
And how much housing will there be? Longson was not certain about that either. "The residential count right now is 500 units," he said, but that could change as artists' renditions are turned into detailed architectural drawings and the company's plan goes through Holladay City's administrative process.
Randy Fitts, Holladay city manager, said General Growth Properties has not submitted any applications for the project, which Longson indicated could begin next year and apparently would involve the demolition of all of the existing mall, except perhaps the Macy's department store on the north end.
There is also no pledge for affordable housing or to incorporate local businesses into the retail scheme, but as an initial offering, its not a bad start at all. In my opinion, it does have the potential to become, at least for some Salt Lake City residents, a much sought after “third place.”
Columbia, Once Again the Prototype (Precursor, Progenitor)
In an interview with New Urban News, GGP vice-president Thomas D’Alesandro IV spoke about downtown Columbia (it has been a while, n’est pas?) I came across his comments via the Planetizen website link “A New Species of Mall Rat Evolving?”
Despite the (what some would think is a) disparaging link title, the actual article provides some insight into the soon to be released plans in downtown Columbia:
Thomas D’Alesandro IV, senior vice president of the Chicago-based company, told a session at CNU in Philadelphia that he foresees “the reinvention of existing malls into mixed-use centers.”
The firm has quietly had Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. work on a plan for redeveloping Utah’s first enclosed shopping mall — the Cottonwood Mall in Holladay, just south of Salt Lake City — into a mixed-use development. That project, whose design has not yet been made public, joins mixed-use redevelopment projects that the company is pursuing in Columbia, Maryland, Natick, Massachusetts, Rock Springs, Wyoming, and elsewhere.
GGP’s acquisitions, and an awareness of changing living patterns and widespread opposition to sprawl, have given the company a growing appreciation of mixed-use development. “We’re looking, going forward, at being a different company,” D’Alesandro told a CNU audience May 19.
D’Alesandro pointed out the significance of his own history and position. “I head development at General Growth,” he said, and “I have never built a mall.” What he has done over the years is orchestrate development of Virginia’s Reston Town Center during a formative period of that project and work as an executive at The Woodlands, a “new town” begun in the 1970s north of Dallas.
In Columbia, where zoning approvals for redevelopment are yet to be secured, “the big idea is to integrate the mall into a larger urban fabric, kind of like the 19th-century urban arcaded streets were in Europe,” D’Alesandro told New Urban News. “The tactics would include walkways and streets connecting the mall to Columbia Town Center’s lakefront district, which abut one another but have never been connected from a pedestrian point of view…. Other sides of the mall would have their own connections to streetscapes.” Parking lots would be replaced by structured parking. Residential, office, and retail space would be added. A hotel may be built, too. The Howard County government had Design Collective, a new urbanist firm in Baltimore, devise a 30-year plan through a public charrette process (Dec. 2005 New Urban News). GGP has since retained Cooper, Robertson & Partners, another new urbanist firm, to create a plan.
“I think Columbia presents an excellent opportunity to develop a protocol for mall conversion into mixed-use town centers that we will be able to study and extend to other properties across our portfolio,” D’Alesandro said. “My belief is that this is going to be a long-term trend extending over at least the next twenty years, so much so that people will become as familiar with a mall conversion protocol as they are with a prototypical new urbanist residential neighborhood…. It will start out slow as people learn the new ‘formulas’ and pick up speed once they have got them down.”