At a recent meeting of the Urban Land Institute Spring Forum, the Entertainment Development Council (EDC) session was all about new development, stalled development that is back-on-track, and planned new projects. It was fulfilling to me as a consultant working in retail, arts and entertainment that a common thread ran through many of the projects: children’s culture. When the economy slants downward, we always think of cutting the most essential things first. And the eleemosynary segments are always the ones that get tossed out. Now that the economy has come back, not roaring, but definitely walking at a brisk pace, these elements are being considered again. I want to tell you about three such projects that impressed me from our EDC meeting in May.
TILE DESIGN AND DELIGHT – ONE KID AT A TIME
One of the developers presenting to us at the meeting was a lovely gentleman, Colton Sudberry, of the Sudberry Companies with properties headquartered in beautiful San Diego County. The company has been selected to develop the Town Center components in many of San Diego County’s premiere master planned communities based on its reputation for creating special public places that combine landscape, color, water features, outdoor fireplaces, artwork and music. Sudberry projects include 4.6 million square feet of retail, 3 million square feet of office parks, and 6,400 residential units in urban mixed-use settings. What impressed me most were two projects in particular, Eastlake Village Market Place and VillageWalk at Eastlake, which adopt painted tiles designed and painted by school children as part of the décor of a lovely outdoor seating area. At first, the tiles look like pretty Mexican works, but upon closer inspection, one can decipher the handiwork of grammar school kids. What a way to build good will and add value to your shopping center! What mom wouldn’t want to come to the center often to see the work of her child, and to invite her friends and family to accompany her?
PRAIRIEFIRE AT LIONSGATE-OVERLAND KANSAS
More than 1,500 miles away from San Diego, a new 61-acre mixed-use residential, shopping, office and cultural project is rising from the ashes of the recession, with an ambitious program in planning for the last 10 years. Prairiefire, the brainchild of Fred Merrill is located in Overland Park, Kansas, a nationally ranked award-winning city and dynamic suburb, which is both the second largest city in Kansas, and within the Kansas City Metropolitan area. Prairiefire is designated by the State of Kansas and the City of Overland Park as a major tourism destination due to its anchor attraction–the American Museum of Natural History, yes the New York one! It is this attraction that makes this a children’s draw. A 40,000 square feet facility, this cutting edge, world renowned institution will offer exhibitions and authentic artifacts from the New York venue, one of the most celebrated museums in the world. Some of the exhibitions include the following:
- The World’s Largest Dinosaurs
- The Discovery Room
- A Night At the Museum
- An H2O Exhibit
Estimated annual visitation will total approximately 800,000; the museum will offer two traveling exhibitions annually. Most of the museum will be paid for by $22 million in STAR bonds. There is still $6.5 million that must be raised privately for exhibitions, the Discovery Room, classrooms, and scholarships. By any measure, this is one of the most ambitious children’s cultural attractions currently under development in the United States.
YOUTH ARTWALK- AN INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIP OF CULTURE AND COMMERCE
An innovative program in Southern California is marrying two seemingly diverse partners, developers and elementary schools. As budget cuts across the country continue to devastate art and music programs, Cutler Enterprises, a brand development/marketing/public relations firm decided that they could help their clients and do good one school district and one shopping center at a time.
The idea, to invite all children (K-12) to submit artwork to be judged by art professionals and gallery owners. The art was shown on the walls of the client shopping center common area. The winner received cash and gift cards totaling $400, as did the participating school, the gift prizes being provided by the shopping center. The grades were divided into four judging groups so that multiple prizes were given for each school and there were multiple opportunities for participant teachers and schools to receive the top prize.
The extremely successful first event garnered more than 260 fine art submissions from 31 schools and the awards assembly was standing room only. Educators, kids, parents and staff are so excited that have already said they are looking forward to next year and project four times the submissions, over 1,000! If a community’s pride is measured by residents’ civility and culture, these types of programs will elevate local ownership and recognition of their community’s talented youth, and their retail center’s nurturing of that talent!!
We applaud these civic minded developers and school districts. Let them serve as best practice models across the country!