Byline: Kristin Young

COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Bridge of Gardens, a 650-foot walkway connecting two wings of the upscale South Coast Plaza, fuses commerce with art and appears to be satisfying both needs.
Aesthetically, the bridge, made of galvanized and stainless steel draped with bougainvillaea, is visually arresting. Commerce-wise, the link seems to be boosting the center’s sales, according to its owners.
The bridge is a culmination of two years of work by landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson, and it officially opened last Thursday. In about 90 seconds, visitors can traverse the structure, walking between what used to be called the Crystal Court, a smaller wing, and the main wing of the center that boasts such luxury retailers as Jil Sander, Prada, Chanel and Gucci.
Gustafson, who is based in Paris, does most of her work in Europe and is known for her modernist approach in public and corporate parks.
Access to the bridge is from the second floor of the main wing, between Escada and Salvatore Ferragamo, an entrance that is adjacent to a Macy’s West store. There is a 24,000-square-foot garden at the base of the bridge and Cafe Pascal, which features top local chef Pascal Olhats.
The bridge spans the Macy’s West parking lot and Bear Street and curves around to the recently unveiled 189,000-square foot Macy’s Home store prototype. The walkway leads to other home and lifestyle retailers located in the smaller wing, including Laura Ashley Apparel & Home, Crate and Barrel and Borders Books.
The bridge had a soft opening earlier in September but already dramatic impacts on traffic patterns are being felt, according to the center’s owner, Henry Segerstrom.
“We’ve already seen sales improvement between the two centers,” he said. “And it’s [from] those who were reluctant to shop both sides.”
Segerstrom said about 8,000 people walk the bridge each day and he’s seen shopping bags from both sides. He said he expects that pace will hold steady through the first year but declined to pinpoint the walkway’s impact on the center’s annual sales, estimated to reach $1 billion this year.
The unveiling of the bridge drew hundreds on an overcast day. A small ensemble played “Fanfare for the Common Man” by American composer Aaron Copland while hundreds of white doves were let loose and confetti shot to the sky.
“I love the bridge,” said Jeremiah Sullivan, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s West, who was on hand for the opening ceremony.
“It is a beautiful structure and I think what’s most beautiful about it is that it’s going from one Macy’s store to another,” he quipped.
Macy’s West has invested $125 million in construction and renovation of its units recently in Orange County, about half of which was spent on the units at South Coast Plaza. The Macy’s West stores here have the potential to be the first Macy’s West stores in Southern California to pull in $200 million in annual sales.
Meanwhile, South Coast Plaza is spearheading a $120 million renovation of its own. When complete, about 40 new stores will open by the end of the year, including a renovated and expanded Robinsons-May, which is adding 50,000 square feet to its 295,000-square-foot unit and is slated to open in November; Louis Vuitton’s new global concept, scheduled to open later this month; and a two-story Banana Republic opening next month.
And there are more to come later. Donna Karan announced plans in September to open its first Collection store in a 1,900-square-foot space here by next March.
The demographics seem to justify all the expense and expansion: Orange County counts a gross domestic product of $120 billion (about the same as the country of Greece); the annual household income in the surrounding areas is more than $75,000; and about 22 million visitors come to South Coast Plaza every year.

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