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Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
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Ed
Mueller Community

Posts: 84
Joined on August 11th, 2008
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by Ed on August 14th, 2008

Lots of good ideas at the Town Center meeting. Here were things I heard or thought:
- a theme was "walkable, local, unique and affordable," not the Domain,
bars but not 6th street, kid-friendly and an Alamo Drafthouse
- cobblestone/brick streets
- revive closed local businesses (I was thinking let's get the Armadillo
back up and running)
- place to rent bikes
- high overlooks

My favorite thought was a classical electric streetcar (like San Francisco) that connect points at Mueller. This streetcar would be attractive for riders and could connect the Town Center with a big parking area somewhere. This would allow the Town Center to be more pedestrian friendly but still have auto access for those outside of Mueller. Furthermore, the streetcar could be a model for what Light Rail could be. People will say, "hey, did you see that cool streetcar at Mueller, I wish it went all the way to UT, downtown and South Congress." The Mueller streetcar line could be built as new phases are added and we don't have to wait for a long city process for light rail that may or may not happen. If it does happen, the streetcar line could be converted to Light Rail.

I also thought a Willie Nelson statue the size of the Statue of Liberty would be a nice signature piece for the overlook

What did everyone else think and hear?
 
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GarrethWilcock
Mueller Community

Posts: 480
Joined on February 23rd, 2008
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by GarrethWilcock on August 14th, 2008

It was a great meeting - well attended by us residents.

I heard much about "pedestrian friendly" to "exclusively pedestrian areas". And I heard a downplay on retail and a focus on smaller scale shops.

I also liked the suggestions of inspirations in our group - a cross between a town in South America whose name I can't spell, Venice (no cars), Southern European cities, Covent Garden in London, Firewheel in Dallas, The Domain, Not the Domain, and West Sixth / SoCo.

I wrote some other key words down in my blog:
http://garreth.featuredblog.com/?p=50

cheers

Garreth
 
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langhugh
Mueller Community

Posts: 1149
Joined on August 18th, 2007
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by langhugh on August 15th, 2008

Ed, that was a great post, and Garreth, your blog work continues to impress.

I would encourage everyone who was either in attendence or just eager to share their town center thoughts to contribute them to THIS THREAD. Let's gather some qualitative feedback and we'll submit this discussion to Catellus/ROMA/ELS/LiveWorkLearnPlay. The gentlemen I've met with ELS and LWLP are talking a good game right now. They are very receptive to information and new ideas. It will only help the finished product if the architects and designers have deepest understanding of our needs/desires for Town Center

I will gather some thoughts and post them soon. but for informational puroposes, here is Rick Krivoniak's summary of the process for his Windsor Park neighbors...

"As noted in previous updates, Catellus is seeking input on the community’s desires for Mueller’s Town Center. The first input meeting was held on August 13th, at the Region 13 Education Center, with about 170 folks attending. Internationally recognized consultants ELS Architecture and Urban Design (http://www.elsarch.com) and LiveWorkLearnPlay (http://www.liveworklearnplay.com) have been hired by Catellus to assist in planning and developing the Town Center. Additional input opportunities will be announced in the coming months, but is always welcome at the http://www.MuellerAustin.com site. The consultants are scheduled to make their initial recommendations by February, 2009."
 
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Murmur
Mueller Community

Posts: 395
Joined on April 30th, 2008
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by Murmur on August 15th, 2008

I realize our Town Center will not be an indoor mall, but NorthPark in Dallas is a truly unique and special experience because it isn't like other malls. I would encourage everyone to read this article for some insights that can be applied to Mueller Town Center. Apologies for the length, but I think this article is really helpful.

NorthPark's Secret

With curved planters, Hammering Men, and now a $200 million expansion, NorthPark Center is more than a mall.

D Magazine, April 2006

By Virginia Postrel

NorthPark Center is an anomaly. Opened in August 1965, it's one of the country's oldest surviving enclosed malls. In an industry of giant chains, it's still run as a stand-alone center by its founding family. It has no marble floors, no carts or kiosks exploiting every inch of leasable space, no carousels or rubberized play areas for the kids. It doesn't even have a sign out front. The closest thing to a NorthPark marker is Beverly Pepper's earth-and-steel sculpture Dallas Land Canal and Hillside.

I'll admit that the first time I visited NorthPark, during a Dallas house hunt in the spring of 2000, I was unimpressed and more than a little confused. After living in Los Angeles, I was used to urban malls with compact footprints, lots of light, and plenty of places to hang out. NorthPark seemed old, rambling, and dark. It had no food court and only hard benches to sit on. It seemed like a place to buy things, nothing more--not a community center and certainly not a model of smart management and good design.

I've changed my mind.

For starters, it's hard to argue with success. NorthPark opened a long time ago, back when the Beatles were still together and there had never been a Super Bowl. American suburbs are dotted with once-thriving centers that now attract visitors only at http://www.deadmalls.com, a site where enthusiasts chronicle the lives, deaths, and lingering illnesses of shopping malls. Not many malls make it to their 40th birthdays.

Yet NorthPark has not merely endured; it has prevailed. In an industry where sales of $400 per square foot are considered good, NorthPark does more than $700 per square foot--despite leaving all that corridor space free of sales-generating micro-businesses [kiosks]. Duck ponds, planters, and Hammering Men don't produce revenue, but NorthPark isn't suffering.

"There's no question that it has been a trophy property," says James C. Bieri, a Detroit-based retail consultant. Bieri grades shopping centers around the country. Locally, he gives NorthPark an A, along with the Galleria and Stonebriar Centre.

Besides, NorthPark's $200 million expansion, with a grand opening next month, addresses all of my complaints. The mall's layout is now an easy-to-navigate square, with a 1.4-acre central garden that invites guests to linger. There's a beautiful food court, with custom-designed chairs and banquettes surrounding a glassed-in central area open to the sky. This area features four planters with 25-foot-high black bamboo to provide "an outdoor experience in the middle of an indoor space," says architect Mark Dilworth, a principal at OmniPlan, the firm that designed both the original NorthPark and its expansion.

Throughout the expansion, natural light spills from skylights and tall clerestory windows. In the coming months, fixtures and skylights in the older sections will get an update--and a good cleaning--balancing the light.

The expansion is just the latest and most dramatic phase in NorthPark's history of adaptation. Both Dallas and retailing have changed a lot since NorthPark opened on what had been 88 acres of cotton fields in Far North Dallas. And that brings me to what's most impressive about the mall: its ability to balance flexibility and planning, serendipity and a fierce attention to detail.

Take the tiled planters in front of Neiman Marcus. Their sloped sides were au courant in 1965, adding a gentle curve to the rectilinear geometries of mid-century modernism. Nobody saw them as sliding boards--except the kids, who find them irresistible. Long before malls were installing play areas, NorthPark created one accidentally. Instead of worrying about wear and tear or lawsuits, or taking a hint to install traditional play equipment, NorthPark embraced children's spontaneous use of its space.

"It was not designed for that. It just happened," says Nancy Nasher, who was 5 when her father, Ray Nasher, started working on NorthPark and turned 11 just as the mall opened. "It's an amazing thing. Even a child who's never been in this center and has never seen another kid do it, they just see it and take off and run and just do it."

Nancy and her husband David Haemisegger run NorthPark and own half. In 2004, they sold the other 50 percent to the Macerich Co., a Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust. The deal is an unusual one, because Nasher and Haemisegger maintain operational control. (Their company, not Macerich, financed and executed the expansion.) They have a personal stake, beyond their business interests, in how the mall evolves.

NorthPark, says Nasher, "represents my mother, my father, my grandparents, but it's also now something my husband and I have grown up professionally on. It's something we have worked on since college."

Just as the little girl serving cookies to her dad's business associates turned into the executive negotiating leases and juggling architectural plans, NorthPark also developed during the decades. A mall whose original tenants included JCPenney, Woolworth's, Singer Sewing Center, and Wyatt's Cafeteria has gracefully evolved into a home for the likes of Barneys New York, Tiffany & Co, Apple, and Juicy Couture. Stores come and go, but NorthPark remains NorthPark.

The mall has a strong, yet restrained, architectural identity. Buildings of NorthPark's mid-century vintage tend to fall into two problematic categories: cheap, disposable boxes that use "modern" geometry as an excuse to cut costs or architectural showcases so tightly designed that they don't tolerate adaptation. Malls, meanwhile, tend to finish their interiors to reflect the latest styles and, if they're prosperous, to remodel frequently to keep up with changing trends.

NorthPark reflects a different philosophy. It uses understated materials--white Texas brick and dark, polished concrete floors--and simple forms to create a serene, consistent backdrop for the busier, more fickle designs of tenant stores. Its modern architecture is neither disposable nor rigid. Rather, the mall environment provides a fundamental stability that creates a continuing sense of place. Within this structure, tenants are free to come and go and reinvent themselves. "The notion was not to be of the moment but to be enduring, and to let the stores be of the moment," Dilworth says.

Every storefront is framed in NorthPark's white brick with the center's logo in relief at each top corner. "Framing each store, no matter what it was--Woolworth's or Neiman's--consistently, uniformly in the white brick ties it all together. It lets the stores be the artwork," Nasher says.

...

During the next few decades, many of the mall's new stores may disappear. But the expansion's design is built to last, says Nancy Nasher, "for the next 20, 30-plus years." She, her husband, and the architects are proud that the new NorthPark preserves the center's now-classic atmosphere, even as the mall upgrades its amenities.

The expansion consumed a million hand-laid white bricks, enough to stretch to Houston. (Ray Nasher chose white brick because, he said, all of the world's most important buildings, from the Taj Mahal to the U.S. Capitol, are white.) Unable to match the ceramic tiles that lined the original floors, the architects searched the world for an alternative with the same color and texture. Before they would approve the new limestone tiles, Nasher and Haemisegger sent a representative to the quarry in Tunisia to check out the stone.

Nasher also insisted that the new corridors be 38 feet wide, the same as the original mall and two feet narrower than the 1973 expansion that added Lord & Taylor. The original width, she says, "has always felt right."

And, of course, NorthPark wouldn't be a Nasher property without fine art. Hammering Men will return, most likely near the children's stores. Nasher and Haemisegger will add new pieces from their own collection. And to celebrate its 21st-century makeover, NorthPark is getting a new touchstone sculpture: a bright red steel ensemble by Mark di Suvero, who will install the work this month.

Approximately 50 feet high, it will sit in the new NorthCourt between Nordstrom and Macy's. Visitors on the first floor will be able to walk in and around its beams, while the second floor provides a top view no sculpture garden can offer. It will be visible up and down the mall's northern and western corridors.

Called Ad Astra, the sculpture was first displayed last year at the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. Nancy Nasher read about it in the New York Times, where art critic Benjamin Genocchio called it the "apotheosis" of di Suvero's work: "The artist's recent sculptures also have a structural purity and conceptual clarity that is astonishing," he wrote. "It is called refinement, and I guess that is what you get from 40 years of banging away at the same idea."
 
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mrs aaron
Mueller Community

Posts: 767
Joined on August 31st, 2007
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by mrs aaron on August 15th, 2008

I sent some photos to Catellus of my hometown, Iowa City. It has a great pedestrian mall. I will put them in the Photo thread, if I can...
 
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devinrey
Mueller Community

Posts: 86
Joined on June 30th, 2008
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by devinrey on August 16th, 2008

The concepts that emerged from discussions reminded me a lot of Old Town Square in Fort Collins, CO where I attended college. Here's some commonalities:

Outdoor pedestrian friendly open space lined with shops with both indoor/outdoor seating. Perimeter parking and garages (not ugly) are located outside the square. The square itself is paved with cobblestone and includes sculpture for kids to climb on, fountains, seating areas, and a small stage. It also supports a variety of activities including music/festivals and community events. Daytime or night destination with cafes, pubs, gift shops, local boutiques, fitness, convenient services, and galleries. The store fronts are designed to integrate with the surroundings especially the older buildings which are a big part of the character and flavor of the community.

In the meeting there was also a big emphasis on a street car which would be awesome.

There's a small map of Old Town that I made for a web site for a place there called (funny coincidence) Austin's American Grill. Linked Here

The Town Center should have it's own website to announce events, plans, and get community involvement in keeping it alive but maybe thats a given.
Downtown Fort Collins
 
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Duck_Garcia
Mueller Community

Posts: 95
Joined on March 19th, 2008
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by Duck_Garcia on August 16th, 2008

I second the Old Town in Fort Collins as a model. It was a great place to bike to, walk around, get food/drink/desserts, hold festivals, etc. Also, it managed to maintain the small town, pedestrian-friendly feel it had in 1993 when I first arrived despite the boom in population through the mid & late '90s. Now, Fort Collins regularly tops (or nears the top) of "Best Places to..." lists. I'll still take Austin mind you...
 
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MCCLOSKEY5
Mueller Community

Posts: 196
Joined on October 24th, 2007
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by MCCLOSKEY5 on August 18th, 2008

Fort Collins looks great. I like the Bike In Movies!!
 
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vaden
Mueller Community

Posts: 36
Joined on July 8th, 2008
Town Center Thoughts and Ideas
by vaden on August 18th, 2008

Another town center to consider - I enjoy this town and it reminds me of Mueller's goals:

just google image search "Celebration Florida"

Here's a nicely detailed map: http://blog.orlandoavenue.com/m/blogs/orlave/Celebration_Florida/celemap2.jpg

Notice the hotel, shops and eateries (with living on second floor), and theater all along the lake's boardwalk.
 
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Kevin Ludlow
Mueller Community

Posts: 582
Joined on August 19th, 2007
 
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