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.