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Retail California: Shopping Centers, Malls, and Creating a New Consumerism
Nothing is new under the retail sun. Three shopping centers built in the halcyon Southern California of the 1940s: the Broadway-Crenshaw Center, North Hollywood's Valley Plaza, and San Diego's Linda Vista Shopping Center, became the models for the anchor tenant mall, the strip mall shopping center, and the outdoor courtyard center (like today's the Grove), respectively. Though none survive in their original incarnation, their influence lives on everywhere in the world of retail shopping.
Excerpt: "Site selection for Broadway-Crenshaw depended on innovative number crunching. Researchers poured over the 1940 Census, pulling housing data -- the number of dwelling units, the age and condition of stock, monthly rents -- to calculate household incomes and their regional distribution. Market analysts figured out their spending patterns by constructing what we know today as 'a time distance study' -- tracking where consumers lived and the time it took to get from point A to point B. Supermarkets like Ralphs had long gathered data for site selection through newspaper circulation, utilities, and building permits; the architects of the Broadway-Crenshaw project took this process one step further.
Broadway-Crenshaw's design -- a department store anchored integrated retail complex -- was not new. Market Square in Lake Forest, Illinois, anchored by a Marshall Field's, had opened in 1928, nearly two decades earlier. Contemporaneous examples included Ridgeway Shopping Center (1945-1947) in Stamford, Connecticut, and Bellevue Shopping Square (1945-1946) near Seattle, Washington, both of which employed the department store model as well. But neither had done so on a scale equal to Broadway-Crenshaw. The square footage of Bellevue and Ridgeway combined amounted to less than Broadway's largest store. Over half million square feet of enclosed space were served by thirteen acres of parking made to accommodate 2,500 cars.
As chain stores proliferated within Broadway-Crenshaw, real estate and retail experts took note of the economic gains that came from the paring of a large department store with national chains. The complex succeeded in unexpected ways as well. When May Company opened its own Crenshaw store anchoring a much smaller, less integrated retail complex across the street, relations between it and Broadway soured. At the time, placing two department store rivals in such proximity to each other was unimaginable. Yet, both businesses thrived as Broadway-Crenshaw's commerce expanded so rapidly that it soon emerged as its own unofficial business district, bisected by Santa Barbara Avenue -- a veritable Mason-Dixon separating May Company and Broadway Crenshaw."