Patty and Kevin Cunningham have nothing against Chino Hills, the town 20 miles west of Riverside where they've lived for seven years. It's just that, "quite frankly, there's absolutely nothing to do," Patty says. That's why, come spring, this two-career couple in their 50s who love night life and people watching will move into a two-bedroom apartment above a shopping mall.
Not just any shopping mall--Paseo Colorado, the Pasadena development that opened in September mixing apartment living with stores, restaurants, a high-end supermarket, gym, spa and a multiplex. The Cunninghams, minus their two grown children, will rent a two-bedroom apartment, one of 387 units that lease for $1,500 to $4,000 a month and look out over a P.F. Chang's restaurant, a Sephora cosmetics store, busy Colorado Boulevard and the Pasadena skyline.
Paseo Colorado is one of many mixed-use developments in various stages of completion around the country that combine residential, office and retail space in close proximity, a trend that has been gaining steam in recent years. In Southern California, where apartment living is traditionally considered a stop on the way to homeownership, these new developments are drawing the young and hip along with older empty-nesters, realizing a long-heralded growth of a new urbanism.
In rejuvenated Hollywood, a complex at Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street will break ground early next year and include 300 apartments above 100,000 square feet of retail space. A proposal for a $90-million pedestrian-friendly development in North Hollywood near a Red Line subway station was just announced. It would include 534 residential units and 28,000 square feet of retail space and would be completed by 2006. Burbank is expected to approve a complex for retail space, lofts and townhomes on a full city block downtown. And in 2003, Long Beach will complete CityPlace, an eight-square-block complex combining apartments with retail space that will replace the Long Beach Plaza mall and complement the 9-year-old nearby retail-residential mix at Pine Avenue and Broadway.
Then there's Playa Vista, the much-debated and long-delayed mixed-use project on a much grander scale. The complex between Venice and Los Angeles International Airport combines condominiums, apartments, affordable housing, single-family dwellings, office space, parks, a clubhouse and retail space in styles ranging from modern to Mediterranean on 350 acres. After much debate about the use of wetlands on the site, construction on Playa Vista has begun, and residents will be able to move into a few buildings early next year; the project's first phase is expected to be completed by 2006.
The number of mixed-use projects of 15 acres or more completed or under construction rose 37% this year, according to New Urban News, from 155 in 2000 to 213 in 2001. More than 400 such projects of various sizes already exist, spread throughout the country.
Many of these "urban villages" are springing up with fanfare and high hopes, especially in downtowns where few traces of human life can be spotted at night or on weekends.
In Salt Lake City, the Gateway, designed by L.A.-based architect Jon Jerde, opened this month. It features a renovated Union Pacific railroad depot and open-air plaza as its centerpiece. An array of architectural styles define residential units, retail space, museums, restaurants and office space on a 30-acre former railway yard.
For Jerde, who designed Horton Plaza in San Diego and Universal CityWalk, creating the infrastructure for a multifaceted community such as this has been a longtime dream.
"You have people with all kinds of goals. You have office workers mixing with shoppers mixing with residents and tourists. The more expanded the mix of individuals, the more likely it's going to click on a true urbanistic feeling," Jerde says.
Skip Rogers, 38, says living in Brea's revitalized downtown district has been better than he could have imagined. Built in the early 1990s, it incorporates lofts, townhomes, office and retail spaces, as well as restaurants and entertainment on a few city streets rather than a giant complex. Today, a steady stream of shoppers and the consistent, nearly full occupancy of its lofts and townhomes have rendered it a success.
Rogers teaches computer classes at two Rowland Heights elementary schools and says the urban environment "is exactly what attracted me. If I need a Starbucks fix, there's one downstairs. I feel it's more of a community here than the average apartment complex. We all feel like we're in a special location. It feels more like a city."
Although he could do without the occasional delivery truck noise around 3 a.m., Rogers says he loves the vaulted ceilings and linoleum floors of his 730-square-foot loft, as well as being able to walk to Tower Records or the grocery store. And when it comes time to look for a house, he adds, "it'll be bittersweet to move into an average home, without something like this that's so unique."