When updating a downtown mall environment it makes sense to build on the strengths of what is already in place. If the original architecture is well designed then addressing the look and feel of the space can be as effective as building or knocking down walls.
For the Collins Place Mall, built in the late seventies, DesignInc and Mills Gorman Architects were asked to create a bold, new ambience, one catering to a smart, inner-city demographic, says DesignInc's director Hans Varney.
"To this end, three central aspects were addressed. Firstly, we raised the bar in terms of the requirements made of the mall's tenants," says Varney. "Secondly, we created a uniform signature for the shop owners in terms of signage, frontages and upgrading tired surfaces. Lastly, we encouraged the mall's new-found energy to spill out into the surrounding streets and laneways."
Many tenancies were up for renewal at the time of the refurbishment and at DesignInc's and the mall owner's request, shop owners had to agree to a substantial upgrade of their own turf, to keep pace with the mall's public spaces. The appropriateness of retailers was also looked at, to meet the perceived needs of the bustling CBD crowd. Contemporary trends in fashion, food and specialty shops were brought to the fore. A mix of contemporary eateries, for example, had to offer fresh produce displays, healthy cook-to-order options, and also fast food. Despite the mall's up-market ambience, value for money was still part of the overall agenda.