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There is a new “mall reinvention” in town-and you may  find it on a street near you.As reported in the East Bay Times there is something called the “Santana Row” effect, named after the San Jose California location which attracts people to stroll and linger around the area, even if they are not purchasing goods at the luxury shops, or sipping French coffee in the cafes. The emphasis is on a “gathering place and sense of community, not just a place to shop”.

There is something similar in Aurora Colorado where there are streets of pretty sidewalked and gardened retail stores anchored by a pseudo campanile which also housed the area’s library. The Santana Row effect in  California is embracing what is a nationwide planning trend that seeks to undo the great American enclosed mall and the cars that come with it.

The Santana Row effect uses a centred square in the middle of the city centre encircled by retail shops and restaurants. Mixed use residential buildings are above the ground floor retail. There are often offices, theatres and offices incorporated in the area as well. The original Santana Row in San Jose was based upon La Rambla in Barcelona, a fabulous strolling and commercial street. Prominent architects for this new form include Renzo Piano who is planning a similar high street experience with a centred plaza in San Ramon California.

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As one store owner stated about the Santana Row effect: “It takes a lot of money to enter the door at Disneyland, but it’s free to walk around here, enjoy the fountains and enjoy all the architecture”. These new city centres are a reaction against the suburban drive to mall that predicated half of the 20th century.  And people seem to love these new urban pseudo commercial spaces. Alan Hess, the East Bay Times architectural critic states that Santana Row spaces “channel(s) consumerism’s impulses into the creation of a living, breathing neighborhood. It took away space from retail and gave it to people for parks, narrowing streets enough to slow down cars, he said.  People became part of the action as they walked around, or sat at outdoor cafes, people-watching and taking it all in.Santana Row realizes that we want to be with our fellow humans for reasons other than selling or being sold to”.

Santana Row