By Ruta Greiner, ka architecture
With the current state of the economy and slowdown in new development, many development and
asset management organizations are now focusing on investment in existing properties to compete
with lifestyle centers for tenants and customers. Neglected existing properties have become
outdated and out of position with the current shopping demographic. The use of graphics in a mall
renovation can have an enormous effect on its revitalization. The redesign of a signage, identity and
way-finding system can create the perception of a new community destination drawing more tenants
and customers and, in turn, increasing profits for the developer.
Expanding and Rebranding
Identity repositioning can be very useful as the demographics of communities change, as is shown
with Brookfield Square Mall in Brookfield, Wisconsin. This CBL & Associates Properties (CBL)
asset is located in a region that was once considered more rural, but over the past decade, the
demographics changed making it a wealthier community with a very progressive new group of
residents whose needs could not be met with the old facility. The community was ready for upscale
restaurants and a more dynamic atmosphere. A high standard was anticipated for the repositioning
from planning, to image to the use of quality materials.
The community of Brookfield was not looking for a heavily-themed mall but was looking for a “real”
place that would reflect their desire to create an upscale destination for its citizens. The developer
met with city officials to better understand their needs and where they were looking to go in the
future as the community grew.
CBL followed the trend of “de-malling” by creating a few outward facing restaurant tenants,
a porte cochere at the main entry, and re-branding the project with a new logo and color
palette. The additional out parcels created in the renovation allowed for unique design opportunities
within the interior design plan. Vertical overhead directional signs were implemented to serve as
guideposts for visitors navigating to exterior out parcel destinations. The clean lines of the signage
and use of rich materials and color palettes compliment the architecture. The palette incorporated
warm colors offering visitors an inviting experience into a dynamic, yet relaxing environment.
Signage was also added to effectively identify the project off of a now major road system. As the
community had grown, numerous competing retail venues had begun to sprout up adjacent to the
Brookfield Square property. The addition of vehicular directional signage was instrumental in creating
and maintaining effective traffic control within the project. Although, city code would not allow the
use of the vehicular directional signage, our company, in collaboration with CBL, established a trusting
relationship with the city educating them on the benefits of revising the code to allow for such
signage. The use of cultured stone and textured aluminum painted in rich, warm colors was in
keeping with the contemporary and upscale look in this directional signage.
Tuning into a Theme
Northpark Mall, another CBL asset, is located in Joplin, Missouri and runs through the heart of Route 66. A completely different approach to graphic integration was implemented in the renovation of the property.
With its proximity and nostalgic connection to the Route 66, an opportunity was presented to create
a dramatic impact through theming. In the renovation of the mall, the use of different typefaces for
the graphics of the food court gives the viewer a sense of what the graphics and typefaces would be
like during the heyday of Route 66. In its design, our company understood the importance of selecting
typefaces so that they create the intended environment. Typefaces can convey mood, attitude, and
tone while having a distinct image based on the font’s unique features. The font can connect the
mood, purpose and intended audience to a project. The personality of the selected fonts enhanced
the consumers feeling of walking through America’s first main street — Route 66.
Further fostering the theming concept was the introduction of custom designed circular light fixtures
with the names of cities along Route 66. The long curvilinear LED lights are hung off the ceiling and
connect each “city” as you walk through the food court. The entry sequence of the food court also
includes history panels describing the origin of Route 66, designed to incorporate materials and
elements of the signage of that era. Columns have blade signs that use the old-time interstate
mileage markers indicating the distance until the next city and blade-mounted historic postcards with
brilliant typefaces and graphics in line with the 1940’s. The color selection and precise application
complement the intended environment. Even the food court tabletops are feature collages of old
postcards and graphics from Route 66 souvenir shops.
The graphics component of the renovation project was a nominal part of the construction costs but
brought a huge new look to the project.
At Beachwood Place in Northeast Ohio, a General Growth Properties (GGP) enclosed mall, the
center court and main exterior entry were enticing to a variety of high-end tenants. The challenge
was the limited available frontage at the mall’s primary entrance. This was due to a small cramped
food court located on the lower level off center court.
GGP added lifestyle center components to the North side of the mall as part of a renovation
including outward facing upscale restaurant tenants. The mall’s main entry was relocated in the
plaza area between the two tenants, creating a dynamic entry sequence through the addition of a
kinetic sculpture near the outdoor seating area and pedestrian area. Valet parking signage was also
added due to the addition of the two upscale restaurants.
The dark, antiquated lower-level food court was relocated to the upper level of the project. It
included all new food court tenant storefronts and signage. Uniformity in the approach to the food
court tenant counters, signage and lighting led to a cohesive aesthetic creating a “restaurant” feel
rather than a typical chaotic food court. The overall design of the signs were rich in colors and
materials that complemented the new flooring and color scheme. An internally illuminated artistic
graphic panel with vibrant colors welcomes customers as they ride the escalator from the first floor
directly into the food court.
Different thematic objectives in each of these projects provided great impact on the changing market
place sometimes even more than costly construction. Changing perception, improving identity and
providing community can occur through a wide variety of applications and thematic solutions.