Byline: Kristin Young

PASADENA, Calif. — A crane sent the arched panes of glass from the Pasadena Plaza shattering to the ground, and the gathered crowd broke into applause, a reaction that owed less to the dramatics of demolition than to the new phase of development it signaled. The 20-year-old building on Colorado Boulevard, a notorious eyesore, was coming down to make room for a mixed-use mall expected to offer retail vibrancy, employment and harmony with the character of this historic community.
The new development, Paseo Colorado Pasadena, is expected to add thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the city, according to the mayor of Pasadena, Bill Bogaard.
There’s another dimension to the enterprise, however, say it principals. Conceived as more than a retail center, Paseo Colorado Pasadena will be an example of a new mall concept called “urban village,” touted by many mall developers and real estate experts as the model of downtown revitalization projects to watch in the future.
It is the latest project of TrizecHahn Development Corp., the San Diego real estate firm driving a number of other anticipated projects of note, including Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, Calif., the future home of the Academy Awards, and the Desert Passage, set to open in August at the Aladdin Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Official demolition and construction on the Paseo project began May 18. The schedule calls for it to open by fall 2001.
“People are looking for more than a formula suburban mall project. They’re looking for an urban experience, something that connects with the community and its pedestrians,” explained Lee Wagman, president and chief executive officer of TrizecHahn. “We’re pushing the concept further than it’s gone before.”
The project’s main thrust is to fit in with historic Old Town Pasadena and thus carry on the vision that architect Edward H. Bennett had for the city in the early 1920s.
The retail complex is sited one block east of the historic district, bordered by the Central Library, the Civic Auditorium and City Hall. Bennett constructed those three buildings in Beaux Arts Classical architecture, along the Garfield Avenue axis. Three blocks of the complex will front Colorado Boulevard between Marengo and Los Robles Avenues.
To conform to Bennett’s overall design approach, Paseo Colorado Pasadena is planned as an open-air, Mediterranean-style mall, similar in form and function to a town square one would find in Europe. TrizecHahn’s Wagman said planners will incorporate existing Pasadena city streets and public gathering places into the design. For example, the blocks on Colorado Boulevard with street-front stores will employ several walkways leading into the village, he said.
Vaughan Davies, principal at the project’s Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut, & Kuhn Architects in Los Angeles, said his firm seized upon the European town square concept, planning fountains, courtyards, intimate little paseos or pathways covered with vines, patios and balconies. Architects also incorporated views of the distant mountains and vistas, he said.
“It will be great bursts of wonderful first impressions,” Davies described. “There will be great shade, the sound of water, great gathering places and many, many reasons to wander through.”
Paseo Colorado Pasadena will have 560,000 square feet of retail space that includes apparel stores, restaurants, a 14-screen cinema with stadium seating, a gourmet market and a spa.
As of press time, about 45 percent of the mall was leased and an additional 30 percent was spoken for by future tenants, according to TrizecHahn officials. Retailers confirmed as signed tenants include Betsey Johnson and Lucky Brand Dungarees, as well as Gelson’s Super Market, Pacific Theatres, Palomino Euro Bistro, Island’s Fine Burgers & Drinks, Yankee Candle gift store, Arabesque jewelry store, Chinese Gourmet Cafe, Cold Stone Creamery, California Crisp and MAC.
Lucky Brand Dungarees signed a letter of intent to lease a 3,000-square-foot store that fronts Colorado Boulevard. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
“We think that the demographic, and that entire Pasadena market, is our market,” said Trent Merrill, executive vice president of the Los Angeles-based jeanswear maker, noting the area draws the company’s targeted age group — 20-to-50 -year-olds in a middle-to-upper-income bracket.
Lucky had been scouting for spaces on Colorado Boulevard, but a spot was hard to come by. When the Paseo Colorado space became available, the company didn’t hesitate, Merrill said. “We like the streetscape feel. It reminds us of the Paseo Nuevo project on State Street in Santa Barbara, where we’ve been for quite some time.”
Betsey Johnson has also signed on for a 1,000-square-foot store facing Colorado Boulevard, as part of its retail expansion. Stacia Heath, the company’s director of retail, said she expects the store to be a midrange earner, but declined to reveal firm projections. “Our success in the San Fernando Valley was an indication that we could expand to the San Gabriel Valley. We just know that our customer is there,” Heath added, noting client-list zip codes indicate there is a sizable following in Pasadena.
A Macy’s West department store already exists at the eastern end of the site, and it will remain open throughout the demolition and construction of Paseo Colorado Pasadena. Indeed, the Macy’s outlet will begin a renovation of its own. Macy’s West will reconfigure the 152,000-square-foot store to include the chain’s Thisit (This Is It) concept, a junior shopping area for teens, and it will also add a tabletop section to the home department.
Broadening its scope beyond the traditional mall format’s single-minded emphasis on retail, the developers of the Paseo Colorado Pasadena’s urban concept are also constructing new residential and commercial components: a colony of about 400 luxury apartments and live-work lofts on four floors that will overlook the trellis-covered Fountain Terrace, one of the mall’s major gathering spots.
The spaces will have high ceilings and large picture windows, according to plans by Atlanta-based Post Properties, Inc., which is developing this component of the project along with RTKL Architects in Dallas. TrizecHahn officials said they want to attract technology-based businesses that have sprouted up in the area to those live-work spaces.
The City of Pasadena, officials from TrizecHahn and public and private investors have all bet heavily on the venture. More than $200 million of public and private investment has been injected into the project so far. Included in that figure is a private investment of $26 million in the form of certificates issued by the City of Pasadena to ensure public improvements. Wells Fargo provided construction financing of about $88 million. The purchase price of Plaza Pasadena and the taking over of its lease on the existing underground parking garage is also included in that overall sum.
Wagman said he projects first-year sales figures to reach in excess of $500 per square foot during the first year, or about $280 million, a figure he says is in line with TrizecHahn’s other top-tier projects around the country.
“First, it’s a great location,” explained Wagman. “Then, the city is one of the most affluent, educated and cultured in the country.”
The mall is located in an area that boasts a $68,100 average household income, and about 35 percent of residents are college educated, according to TrizecHahn. The mall will draw from that demographic as well as a daytime workforce and tourist and business travelers, said Wagman.
Mayor Bogaard’s expectations are equally positive. He said he is confident the project would add about 1,000 jobs for the city, three times the number of jobs that were in place prior to the demolition of the old mall.
As for the overall economic impact to the community, Bogaard said: “The project will represent over $1 million a year in sales tax revenue and tens of millions in ripple effect in the community. We look to tax benefits alone to be a significant contribution to Pasadena in addition to the vitality of the streets and employment opportunities.”
About the only cloud that Bogaard said he sees as a potential threat on the horizon: “If the economy falters, the mall could fall on hard times.”
The mayor said his other major worry is managing traffic patterns once the mall is up and running; the objective will be reducing the number of cars on the street and creating parking spaces to accommodate a swell. Paseo Colorado Pasadena’s underground parking structure should take care of most of the parking needs for vehicles, he said.
Although the concept of mixed-use projects is not new, Paseo Colorado Pasadena is expected to break ground with regard to scale and scope. Wagman said, “This is going to be one of the largest versions of this new concept.” That is why he said he expects the development to attract widespread interest among the real estates and retail communities in how it will perform in the long run.
Retailing expert Richard Giss, partner of the retail services group Deloitte & Touche and a resident of Pasadena, commented that the project looks promising, and in any case should represent a substantial improvement over the previous offering.
“[Pasadena Plaza] just never took off,” Giss said. “It just didn’t have the right mix. The area started to go upscale, and that was not an upscale mall. Frankly, I think it’s going to be a lot more successful.”
Still, with regard to Paseo Colorado Pasadena’s mixed-use aspects, Giss said the jury is still out on live-work spaces, and whether high tech businesses or the targeted young urban professionals will actually want to live there.
“I thought it was a goofy idea at first,” said Giss. “But the draw is there for young people. It depends on how they turn it out. If they make it like Disneyland, it’s not going to be successful. The idea can work, but it’s going to have to be done right.”

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