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Monday Morning Thinkage visited Paseo Colorado in Pasadena and finds the much lauded urban retail space a tad underwhelming. Sure you have the housing and outdoor mall atmosphere, but as GeoSocial notes things are amiss at the mall.

Given the hype surrounding it, I had high expectations for Paseo Colorado. Unforunately, on balance, I was disappointed. Unlike The Grove, which has some pretensions of being a real public place, Paseo Colorado – which is billed as an “open-air urban village” – feels much more like a standard mall, with anchor stores on the ends, two levels of shops complete with bridges from one side to the other... Its outdoor spaces are not well-designed and the whole complex uses more-or-less the same materials. It is not well scaled to human proportions, thus it feels bigger and more commercial than necessary. There is no enough variation in the materials, which also have a cheap feel to them. So, nobody will be fooled into thinking it is anything but one large mall complex. Despite claiming to replicate the traditional fabric of the surrounding area, it still brings people off the street into a large mall-like central spine, and the impact for on-street retail is obvious – I saw few people along Colorado Blvd, despite the presence of shops. Urban design is sometimes a subtle thing – and the urban design-challenged typically heap praise upon the project.

While we tend to agree that Paseo Colorado is off the mark in several areas, it is surely a much more inviting public space than, say your typical mall or even Hollywood & Highland, which has received heaps of scorn since its opening. Part of Paseo Colorado's problem is the dead space that pervades the extension of Garfield Avenue through the center of the mall - see the picture above. The area seems an ideal place for tables and outdoor dining when not being used for a public event. However, a planner who worked on the project told us that the mall made a concession to P. F. Changs that all but killed the possibility for dining on the ground level of the mall. As we heard it, and foggily remember it, Paseo Colorado's developers pursued P. F. Chang's as a prime tenant of the mall - because we all know that gourmet Chinese cuisine atracts a crowd. But the mall developer for some reason - and here's where it gets foggy - could only put the restaurant on the second level (in the space where it now sits). The P.F. Chang's people agreed to go into the second level space only on the condition that other restaurants would not occupy a space on the first level - you know, competition, visibilty issues, etc. The developers agreed because P. F. Chang's was a prized catch for the fledgling mall, which is why Paseo Colorado has no ground level restaurants along that center promenade. Isn't that interesting? We thought so.
· Paseo Colorado: Privatized Public Space in Pasadena []