Yeah, that’s about what they said. City planners (the Urban Design Peer Review Panel) and officials in the Office of Economic Development got their first look late last week at Scott Beck’s ambitious plans to turn Valley View Mall at LBJ and Preston into a magical live-work-shop-movie-eat-play conglomeration called Midtown.
This is Santana Row in San Jose. Interestingly, Santana Row, about 4 miles from downtown San Jose, Ca. was brought up as a possible role model for the new Midtown. I am QUITE familiar with the project:
Then there’s the so-called promenade planned to run alongside the theater and hotel blocks. Architect Vince Hunter of WDG kept comparing it to Santana Row in San Jose, California, an outdoor mall with by a stretch of patio’d pavement running through it where diners dine and shopper shop and walkers walk. Only, Midtown’s promenade will have something extra: cars.
Panel member Rachel Hayden, an engineer, was the first to ask: Does that street have to have cars? The answer: Apparently so.
Hunter told the panel the cars move slow. They would be “invited in” to the promenade. But, he said, “the pedestrians own it.” Which, as far as the panel was concerned, was a decidedly Dallas answer, but not a very satisfactory one.
Santana Row is a lovely mall, but you definitely have to drive there, and then you park, get out and walk. I have had many an al fresco meal there. May I humbly remind my fellow Dallasites hell bent on keeping up out of our cars: the weather is a lot different in San Jose and on the Peninsula than it is in Dallas. Especially Dallas in July and August. You want people walking outside? How about misters to cool? Or big fans. Santana Row also has shading from lovely palms, which don’t generally do well in Dallas.
Some of the experts (architects, engineers, urban planners) said Beck’s first draft was also a bit confusing.
But the project as a whole — especially the maze of streets running through it — could make it a “fairly confusing place in the city,” Rutherford said, “and that’s a problem.”
That promenade, he said, is “a tweener” — either it’s for cars or it’s against them, but it can’t be both. The plan as it stands, he said, is “medieval,” and the whole Midtown concept right now is “based on hope.” The master plan as it stands right now is “perplexing,” Rutherford said.
Will Midtown be “memorable” and “positive,” Rutherford asked, “or simply a confusing collection of blocks?”
A confusing collection of blocks. Santana Row is pretty well laid out, but, you’ve got a big swath of land up there at Valley View — 60 or more acres owned by the Becks, 400 if you go all the way to the Galleria. Valley View was developed in 1973 and thrived until the 90’s, the decade of death for large urban shopping centers.
Santana Row is about 40 acres that also replaced an old shopping mall, the Town & Country Village, built in 1960.
“In 1960, developer Ron Williams (took) a shopping center concept that he thought would be appealing to Bay Area residents. He would build Town & Country Villages (with) one-level Spanish-style buildings of stores and restaurants in four Bay Area communities – San Jose, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Mill Valley. The shopping centers’ tile roofs and covered walkways, supported by thick, vine covered (beams) had a distinctive appearance that set them apart from other shopping malls. The open-air facilities invited visitors to stroll and relax, and promised a touch of class.
Town & Country Village actually sounds an awful lot like High Park Village. It was demolished in the late 1990’s. East coast developer Federal Realty bought it from the owner, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, in 1997 The buyer envisioned 1.5 million square feet of an architecturally significant mixed-use development where people could live, work, shop and entertain, all in one community.
They hired architects to design a European-inspired town plan with broad pedestrian streets, sidewalk cafes, and a mix of both classic and modern architectural elements. The architectural and engineering plans won awards for successfully adapting an old-world European atmosphere to a ground-up development. Santana Row opened to the public in November 2012.
There are 615 Santana Row apartments and 219 privately owned condos. From the time it opened, the residential units have been upscale, among the priciest in San Jose but maintained a 99% occupancy rate.
Oh and by the way, parking is free at all Santana Row lots and garages.
Basing the design of Valley View Mall on Santana Row is not a bad idea — as long as we remember that hiking still rules in this next of the woods, though not necessarily in Texas come August. Then it’s just survival!