Pellow + Associates Architects Inc.

A successful retail center design creates an inviting atmosphere without overpowering the many brands that will be competing for consumers’ attention. It is with this strategy in mind that pellow + associates architects inc. approaches its retail projects in Ontario and elsewhere. Whether creating an outdoor lifestyle center to replace an enclosed mall or repositioning a regional enclosed mall, pellow + associates attempts to bring that sensitivity to each location. 

“Most of our retail design tends to be redevelopment work,” Principal and Vice President David Moore points out. “Some of the shopping centers we did years ago as new suburban centers are now much more urban. We are looking at redeveloping and intensifying them – adding offices, hotels and residential. We’re getting back into more residential and commercial because of it.” The firm was formed in 1978 by Harry Pellow. David Moore and John Ricci joined him as principals in 1985.

The firm – which currently includes about 30 people – is also working on hybrids of shopping centers. For these, part of the mall is enclosed, and another portion is outdoors. Freestanding boxes or outparcel buildings are constructed. To stay up-to-date on future trends, the firm researches stores and shopping centers around the world.

“It used to be we only looked at the United States to see what the next trend would likely be, but more and more, we’re looking at Europe, South America and Asia,” Moore marvels. “The world is shrinking, and we’re looking well beyond the boundaries of North America for retail inspiration.” People shop similarly the world over. “The retail rules in terms of how people shop are similar regardless of where you are,” Moore maintains.

Up and Down

Some of the busiest years for pellow + associates architects inc. have been since 2006. During those years, three major projects fell together one after the other. The Shops at Don Mills was a $200 million project where pellow + associates worked on the demolition of an existing enclosed mall to make way for a new outdoor lifestyle shopping center it designed. The project was completed in early 2009. It was awarded the 2010 Maple Leaf Gold Award for Design and Development Excellence from the International Council of Shopping Centers Canadian Awards (ICSC).

Two other projects completed in late 2009 were both repositioning and additions to existing enclosed malls. They each cost around $40 million and consisted of approximately 100,000 square feet of new space, major remerchandising and renovations to all public spaces.

The single-level Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, Ontario, was built in the shape of a “Y.” The expansion connected the two ends of the Y and included an 800-seat food court renovation and additional retail stores – many first in the market. A separate expansion for The Bay expanded the anchor department store from 75,000 to 130,000 square feet.

The two-level Mapleview Mall in Burlington, Ontario, was given an entirely new exterior appearance so that the mall would have a stronger presentation to an adjacent highway. Traffic in both malls has increased 30 to 40 percent, Moore reports.

Conestoga and Mapleview won Gold and Silver Maple Leaf Awards respectively for design and development from the ICSC Canadian awards. Conestoga mall also won the commercial interior design award of merit for large retail projects from the Association for Registered Interior Designers of Ontario.

As for current projects, a mixed-use redevelopment of a former newspaper plant originally built for the Toronto Sun Newspaper is scheduled for completion in fall 2012 and includes a 40,000-square-foot, No Frills grocery store, three more retail spaces and 100,000 square feet for the downtown campus of George Brown College. Part of the project involves adding three new storeys to an existing three-storey section of the complex.

Design Aesthetic

Designing sustainable retail spaces is a major goal. “We’re working on a project now that will be a new regional shopping center on a greenfield site, and the mandate is to make it a model of sustainability,” Moore relates. Among the techniques in the firm’s arsenal are the careful siting of the shopping center and its shape; use of sustainable materials; highly energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems and equipment; installation of clerestoreys and skylights to maximize daylighting; reuse of rainwater for landscape irrigation; and the use of solar, geothermal and even wind energy.

Lighting design is one example of a major design element that is changing rapidly. The development of LED lighting technology is accelerating and beginning to have a profound effect on energy efficiency while still maintaining good quality lighting both indoors and out.

Other Leading Professionals

The firm works with other industry-leading professionals including structural, mechanical, and electrical consultants, landscape architects, planners, traffic and civil engineers, and sustainability consultants to ensure each project development has the right skill sets to meet the needs of the individual project. Some of pellow’s key partners include STC Construction.

The design aesthetic of pellow does not force a particular architectural style on a project. “We respond to the particular context of each project,” Moore explains. “Our style is contemporary but responds to the individual context and avoids anything that is trendy. Retail today is about branding and brand recognition. We design interiors that have a clean look and create a backdrop to let the retailers present their brands.”

As the suburbs mature and become the new urban centers, and the urban cores welcome back high-density residential, the future of retail development work enters an exciting new phase – one pellow + associates is looking forward to in a big way.

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