Charrette Project Overview
The CNU-California Chapter hosts an annual CNU-By-Design charrette program that provides educational and membership engagement opportunities statewide. The Charrette is an interactive, multi-day workshop that helps the sponsoring city visualized a site specific transformation that the CNU principles and processes can enable. Our board’s selection of the city for the annual charrette project is based upon its relevance to CNU initiatives and expertise. Woodland’s Mall Retrofit Project fits the Congress for the New Urbanism’s national initiative, Suburban Sprawl Retrofit.
The complete, walkable neighborhood or community, a New Urbanist reinvention of a timeless and time-tested settlement pattern, requires a comprehensive and public design process, the Charrette. At its best, it brings all of the stakeholders together at all levels in a holistic, iterative process. It compresses the design-review-revision time so that decisions are made and competing interests can be resolved under short deadline pressures.
Working with City Staff, our charrette team engaged the public with the following outreach tools for a communication exchange with citizens in re-imagining of the mall:
- Notification fliers, marketing materials, and local press;
- Online websites and social media notification;
- Stakeholder and focus group committee meeting announcements;
- Educational lecture event (on retail shifts);
- Open house participation (the Charrette);
- Walking Tours; and
- Film Festival at the historic opera house.
Once we reached out and engaged citizen participation, our charrette used the additional tools to obtain their input on ideas, responses to others’ ideas, and to explore which ones fit within their collective memories and expectations:
- Online Survey/Polling/Commenting Tools;
- In depth, one-on-one stakeholder interviews;
- Stakeholder committee recommendations;
- Consecutive-day charrette participation;
- Small and/or Large Group Workshops Sessions;
- Local Organizations / Advisory Committee Membership;
- Planning Groups, Councils, Non-Profit Groups Meetings; and
- City Council / Board Meetings Participation.
Retrofitting a mall in decline
The scope was organized by a three-step process beginning with a three-month Pre-Charrette data/ information gathering phase, followed by the comprehensive five-day Charrette event phase, and then a ten-week Post-Charrette final report delivery phase. Engagement consisted of pre-charrette and charrette stakeholder education and dialog events with extensive market studies and declining mall research from across the nation. The Report presents a compelling vision and a frame to dialog, manage expectations, educate the citizens, local stakeholders, and the City on the issues and possible solutions for implementing the Project. The deliverables intend to provide the city with zoning code ideas and implementation actions to fulfill the vision of how to approach the mall with a viable 21st century development model.
Our team was tasked with the following tasks and deliverables:
- Convene a public dialog on the future of the mall site;
- Generate big ideas and a vision plan derived from local citizen input;
- Produce a conceptual-level Master Plan and illustrative graphics;
- Include street plans and sections for key corridors and intersections; and
- Strategic recommendations for the planning vision incorporating the market opportunities and regulatory tools.
In collaboration with the city’s Community Development Department, our team was asked to share our professional, new urbanist views on how to successfully retrofit the 40-acre struggling mall.
Background on the Woodland Charrette
Sacramento Bee – Hudson Sangree , 12/3/2017
“Twenty-five years ago, County Fair was a regional mall with Target, Mervyn’s and Gottschalks stores. The latter two went out of business when their chains declared bankruptcy in last decade’s recession, and Target moved to a newer and much larger location near Interstate 5 in Woodland.
The smaller chain stores that occupied malls in the 1980s and 1990s also closed. Orange Julius disappeared from the County Fair Mall. So did Foot Locker, PacSun and RadioShack. Now empty storefronts and local businesses such as hair salons and discount clothing shops occupy the mall. Payless Shoe Source is one of the only remaining chains.
It’s a story that has played out in malls across the nation since the mid-2000s as the recession, big-box stores and online shopping took huge tolls on more traditional brick-and-mortar retail. Enclosed shopping malls, which in many cases had replaced America’s small-town main streets as shopping and gathering places, were hard hit. Up to a quarter of the 1,200 or so malls in the U.S. will close by 2022, Credit Suisse predicted in a June 2017 report.
Nationally, some shuttered malls have been re-purposed as community college campuses or medical offices, but most have remained “dead malls.” The decaying shells of vacant malls have become the subject of documentary films and so-called “ruin porn” online.
In the Sacramento region, Downtown Plaza, which experienced a steep decline in the recession, was mostly demolished to make way for Sacramento’s new arena, Golden 1 Center. Country Club Plaza on Watt Avenue and Florin Mall in south Sacramento were turned into strip malls.
In Woodland, County Fair Mall was built in the mid-1980s beside what was then the main road between Davis and Woodland. It drew customers from up and down the rural Interstate 5 corridor, from communities such as Williams and Arbuckle that lacked their own shopping.
It also pulled business away from Woodland’s historic main street and old shopping centers closer to the city center. Then the mall, too, suffered from newer shopping options, including the Costco and Target built along I-5 as Woodland grew southeast toward Sacramento.
Today the County Fair Mall is a shell of its former self.
The mall is 30 percent leased…”