Friday, March 30, 2007

Danbury Fair: "Reinventing a Classic"

"Reinventing a Classic": Macerich welcomes guests in on the enthusiasm of their redevelopment plans for Danbury Fair Mall.

Late last year the Macerich Company announced, marking the celebration of the then 20-year Danbury Fair Mall, a plan to undergo, like many other of their decades-old centers a long-overdue redevelopment project over the course of 2007. Some of their centers will be receiving radical redevelopment which seek to literally blow the top off the center (including one which hopes to disassociate its largerly clone status to Danbury Fair with a new lifestyle identity at Freehold Raceway Mall), while some, like Danbury, will go for a richly traditional, mild cosmetic makeover. The mall, one of Connecticut's unique, wide-open, indoor shopping malls, was constructed and completed in 1986 in tribute to the Danbury Fair Grounds. At the oversight of former ownership; Wilmorite Company, who was acquired by Macerich just a few years back, Danbury Fair has dodged significant renovation efforts remaining largely original to the late 80's design but mostly tones.

Well, it's 2007 and Macerich has a campaign: to Reinvent [what they call] a Classic.

A widely-public artist rendering now on display at the mall will seek to add many interesting touches to a primarly 80's draped mall as one can see. Amongst many things attributing to the overall decor, the center and food courts will see the most flash; in particular the central court will be reworked entirely for additional seating and lounge space and coffee kiosk, replacing the common Wilmorite-era "olympic-sized" fountain which has basked proudly in the center since opening.

As we reported just a few months ago, Danbury Fair is also to receive a largely updated facelift including what they claim will become a "panoramic" food court, new paint and flooring, while hanging onto some of the center's mahogany tones along most of the currently bland white along the center's walls. One unsurprising update will also include a removal of the soulful center fountain, which will become an downscaled, updated "water feature".

So, yesterday, I took a crunch-time drive to Fairfield County on a wonderful (albeit windy) afternoon to see how the renovations are coming along not having seen much since my last trip in January 2007. The center, which aims for a tenative Spring 2008 completion date, hasn't broken too much ground (literally) just yet, but seeks to do so, and it shows, in coming months as our exclusive images show.

Astoundingly, the signature fountain was on showcase today where onlookers would sip Gloria Jeans within a cafe-style overlook from displaced table sets from the currently redeveloped food court. Much of the progress was on the down-low; Filene's was still vacant but promises a new experience, some of the manual zig-zag staircases with accompanied planters on each end of the center are now gone, in the process of reworking with a possibility of escalators.

But the greatest absence, and what appears to be the earliest breaking ground, is evident in the now half-walled-off food court area, which will soon hold the most of Macerich's ambitious restructurings with a "panoramic" style arrangement where guests, to an emphasized degree, would be able to chat, relax a little. The open-airy food court, like most of the center itself, historically accompanied by the landmark Danbury Fair double-decker carousel, and a continuing effort to include it, along with a cacaphony of usually crowded surroundings, will hope to promote a conversational atmosphere within the prospects of the remodel.

Construction in front of the Macy's anchor includes a removal of the zig-zag staircase.

Away with the brown-and-green hues of the past. Primary mall anchors; Macy's, a conceptual original which entered the mall roster in 1987 and Sears, who opened with the mall, will be the first areas to feature the brightely contrasted, admittedly smooth new tiling.

Manual staircases removed. The center might seek escalator access, which there are already a few featured throughout the mall's runway corridor stretch.

As reported earlier, there are currently no plans for exterior renovations like this respective era Sears and midget-block parking lot lighting who anchored the Danbury Fair Mall since 1986.

We hope to do monthly reports to closely track the status of a beloved Connecticut mall. Jack Thomas has also done a recent update with some images of the center at night (alluring!) on his page Retail Stories Dot Com. Until then, go shop Danbury Fair Mall before they change their rapidly adapting-with-times image. All images were taken March 29, 2007.


Anonymous said...

So far I'm not impressed,whats with todays obcession with having the most blandest colors? (sigh,If only to have a time machine and go back to the early 1990s when style was so bland)

Removal of the manual staircases? SURE that will help people lose weight in a nation with the number one obcesity problem.(what the hell happened to promoting EXCERCISE?)

Cheap move to remove a spectatcular fountain of a teeny weeeny one.

I'm guessing the cool neon sign is going also in place for a 'lifestyle friendly' bland one too.

Let's face it malls were never ment to be ciche stylistic "homey" areas,thats why thse updates look so awkward. They were always fun and friendly,but the best in fashionable interior design?not in the least!

When are these owners going to realize that malls arn't expresso cafe's?

Since when did fashion experts start designing malls?

(even the Naugatuck Valley Mall wasn't the best in interior design,it was nice and pretty,yes but it wasn't exquisitely designed, IT even overdid its decoration to the point of being somewhat tacky)

Anonymous said...

Edit: when I said "was so bland" I MEANT "WASN'T so bland"

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

As usual, I'm in line with your color commentary. At least they aren't draping the mall in white, white, white. The mall is getting a warm tones and if anything; more planters! After seeing the new tiles; the old probably had to go, but I'm not favoring this one a whole lot.

I've always liked the idea of cafe-style dining at malls. You know, chatting with friend(s) in a sociable environment. But it seems to only work in theory. Most malls can't get it right; the comfort zones usually aren't enough to divide between shoppers and overall noise and traffic.

I've never really felt comfortable sitting around sipping a coffee in most malls (very few I'd want to) even though I liked doing it in Danbury (because I enjoy the mall and surrounding) because they had a Dunkin' Donuts right in the food court. Perhaps I could just go to one of these chains where lounging around is promoted. But I can't help it if I'm not a Starbucks or Gloria Jeans frequenteer.

I think DD makes a better cup of coffee but their restaurants are anything but "stay and relax a little."

I'd really like to see what the Naugatuck Valley Mall looked like. I've never been out that way in my childhood so I never got the chance to see any of it. Perhaps some library has some far gone images out there...

Anonymous said...

wow,danbury IS a freehold mall clone! i go to freehold all the time, and im looking forward to some changes...

Anonymous said...

After looking at the overall plan,it doesn't look that bad,sorta nice and interesting.... I don't know if anyone else has noticed but does anyone find it interesting that the plan contains things that have been so eviscerated from most malls these days? such as decorative lighting,themed interiors(such as the wooden decor and chinese lamps)and the warm color palette,perhaps people were getting board at looking at blank walls?(maybe malls are going to have character again?)

NVM was sorta like this except it was in bavarian style (it had exposed timber walls with shingled roofs) but enough about that mall I've been talking about it too much.

Anyway the (proposed)interiors nice and stuff but does anyone see a problem with the name not fitting with the malls new image? At least older malls (1950s 1960s 1970s) didn't have this problem because their names were so basic.

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for archived images of Naugatuck Valley Mall Silas Bronson Library is a good place,its got microfilms from its grand opening in 1969,an advertisement announcing it's grand opening,a ad with a sketch of the mall, an image of the Sears in a article about a small fire that happened there in 1982 and probably even more! You'll need a library card to print them out if you have some time its a great trip down memory lane if you got the time,right now I don't have the time unfortunately, I only went there a couple of times just trying to find the logo of the mall (if you can find it I'd appreciate it,it looks something like a flower shape made out of concentric circles,the first one I've found it's the letters NVM conjoined vertically within a dark square I'm looking for the last logo the mall used.) with no luck. I found a lot of good pics but couldn't print them because I needed I library card to do it,I was so disappointed that I came home with nothing. I'm frusterated that there hasn't been available time to do it!

The Silas Bronson Library opens first Saturday after Labor Day and closes seasonally the Saturday before Memorial day weekend so you're going to have to plan ahead the time you plan to go there within that window,which is a pain.

oh yeah don't even try on major holidays they're closed on those days too.

heres their hours

Anonymous said...

Both the Danbury Fair Mall (1986) and the Freehold Raceway Mall (1990) were built by the Wilmorite Corperation and both were designed by the same Architect, Simon Wong. Macerich now owns both malls (I can't understand why the hell Wilmorite sold them) and now I've just recently found that they're going to renovate the interior of the Freehold mall as well. They're going to gut everything EXCEPT they're keeping the Freehold's large scale fountain. I've also heard that Macerich recently bought the former Filene's at Danbury, and they plan on leveling it and putting a split level parking garage with a "grand" entrance. Macerich seems to want to renovate every mall they buy out, even if it's only 5 years old.... It just gets me thinking, if Wilmorite didn't sell Danbury Fair, it would possibly look original for another 20 years or so. I'm really gonna miss the old Danbury Fair interior. I guess that's what happens when you remember going to that mall since you were a toddler.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Wilmorite did not sell either Danbury Fair or Freehold Raceway; they were acquired in a buyout by Macerich Companies just a few years back.

It seems like since they've [Macerich] established themselves, they've been drafting plans to renovate next to all of the centers Wilmorite neglected to renovate during its time as their respective owners; likely due to their apparent tight financial situation.

Wilmorite currently manages four centers, and it seems their focus was heavy on the development of these very centers (just look at them!)

As for Macerich, their goal is clear: drag almost every staggering or fallen-behind property in a few years.

I originally assumed they were going to dismantle the entire Freehold Raceway center after seeing their projection photo on their site, but this news of them keeping the fountain seems like a good one. It almost appears to be an entirely opposite fate over at Danbury. Weird how their fates have forked, isn't it?

Furthermore, interesting news about the second parking garage they intend on building in the Filene's space. For the longest time, I was sure they were going to throw a bookstore and almost maybe a sporting goods store (Dick's) in the mall. Seems to make a lot of sense to do a grandiose entrance there since their brandnew center court and food court will be right there.

Anonymous said...

Oh ok, thanks for correcting the info between Macerich and Wilmorite. And I've found the Filene's info on a local news website, don't remember what it was though. And the Freehold's renovation info is on a macerich PDF file. It seems that the people in New Jersey want a large scale fountain just to sit and watch a spectacular water feature after they shop....rather than sit in oversized armchairs with coffe-bars. So Macerich said that they've planned on keeping the fountain, but they want to still make small changes to it.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

If only we can convince more mall owners to stop doing away with fountains (and foliage for that matter) and the wonderful ambience they create for silly, dollars-per-square footage movie banners, out of place couches and stale, tacky coffee bars.

Anonymous said...

ayeye maytee