The best shopping mall in California

By: Gary K. Dempster • FAIA • LEED AP • CRX • CDP

A current story in Insider, the online zine that tracks the newest and best-of on topics from culture to travel to food, titled “The best shopping mall in every state” features two STIR Architecture projects— the recently renovated Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance California and Fashion Show, the most popular shopping destination on the Las Vegas strip.

Both Fashion Show and Del Amo are large scale renovations of existing malls that that had lost their competitive advantage and customer base. When we take up the challenge of transforming an aging shopping center, we don’t begin with physical property, rather we ask questions that will help us understand the aspirations of the customers and mall’s potential:

  1. Who was your customer?
  2. Who is your customer?
  3. Who do you want to be your customer?

The answers to these queries lead to further exploration of the communities served by the center—everything from the reasons locals love their town to the easiest routes to the mall. Doing our “homework” helps us recreate the mall as both a brand and brick and mortar center in ways that engage customers and the larger community.

Del Amo Fashion Center, Torrance, California

As one of the earliest and, at one time the largest shopping centers in the U.S., Del Amo Fashion Center was an aging property that in spite of several renovations was losing customers. Locals, including those from the upscale neighborhoods of nearby Palos Verdes, would drive miles further to shop at the newer South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa or Fashion Island in Newport.

Recapturing those customers and attracting new ones was the challenge. And once again the STIR team, working with owner, Simon Properties, and design architect, 5+Design, analyzed what was important to the current and future customer base and by extension the community.

The expansion and renovation turned the patchwork property into a coherent retail center with light-filled airy galleries, inviting eateries, multiple seating areas and gathering spots with lush greenery throughout the mall. The successful transformation has reinvigorated the center engaging a multi-generational customer base from the diverse local communities and well-beyond.

Gary K. Dempster