For two decades, the Plaza Pasadena mall stood fortress-like on Colorado Boulevard, a monument to good architectural intentions gone awry.

Considered a breakthrough when it was built, the Plaza had become an eyesore 20 years later. Designed to draw customers inside and hold them, it eventually became viewed as an impediment to free-flow, easy access shopping in the city's downtown. The Plaza struggled, especially after the loss of one of its anchors, J.C. Penney.

"What was a good idea 20 years ago became a bad idea today," said Bill Boyd, senior vice president with Grubb & Ellis Co.


In the early to mid-1970s, the area of downtown Pasadena surrounded by Colorado Boulevard to the north, Green Street to the south, Los Robles Avenue to the east and Marengo Avenue to the west was a collection of retail and office space that city officials deemed ripe for renovation. In the late 1970s, Plaza Pasadena was built.


Paseo Colorado is a 565,000-square-foot open-air project that includes retail, office, restaurant and entertainment space, along with 387 apartments and lofts.

The $135 million project is located on a rectangular, three-block site. Among the anchor tenants is a Macy's department store that is a holdover from Plaza Pasadena, a Gelson's supermarket, a 14-screen Pacific Theatre, an Equinox fitness club and an Amadeus day spa and salon.

"We call this an urban village," said TrizecHahn's Jennifer Mares. "People living, working, dining, shopping and playing in the same place."


TrizecHahn secured construction financing through Wells Fargo Bank, with the city of Pasadena contributing $26 million. The city will maintain more than 3,000 subterranean parking spaces that are left over from the Plaza.

Mares, who will be Paseo Colorado's general manager when it opens, said 87 percent of the center's available space already has been leased. The apartments and lofts, being developed by Atlanta-based Post Properties, will be available in March 2002.

Pros and Cons:

Paul Stockwell, corporate managing director for the national tenant representation firm Julien Studley Inc., said Paseo Colorado will benefit from having people making their homes on the premises.

A critical element of Paseo Colorado is that it provides a link between chic Old Pasadena and the theater district areas. "Before, you didn't have much going on between two places of activity," Stockwell said. "This will help fill in the void."

Boyd agrees. "This seems to fit a lot of positives into one," he said. "It serves a lot of people. For the city, it's better because it opens the area. For the retailers, they get more upscale people."

Maggie Campbell, president and chief executive of the Old Pasadena Management District, which runs Old Pasadena, said she is reserving judgment.

"I think the attitude around here is wait and see," Campbell said. "The question is whether it will compete with us or create a synergy among us that is beneficial to everyone. There's only one block between us (Arroyo Parkway), so it could mean it will be an extension and we'll become a continual district.

Besides concerns that Paseo Colorado will be a rival to Old Pasadena, there have been protests from groups demanding that affordable homes be included among its rental units. Rosanne Pittman, Post Properties' senior area vice president, said a 750-square-foot apartment would rent for $1,725 a month and a 1,000-square-foot apartment for $2,300 a month.


The overall view of the project is that its benefits will outweigh negatives. The key to its success, however, is how well Paseo Colorado fits into the city as a whole. Old Pasadena has become an extremely popular shopping and entertainment district and getting people to return to the city's downtown area may take some doing.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.