Friday, October 17, 2008
Monday saw the opening of the new Target stores in both Anchorage and Wasilla. While Wasilla's Target store sits on the former location of the Cottonwood Creek Mall, Anchorage's first Target sits on fresh land and is the first in a number of future retail and entertainment to open in the $100 million plus Tikahtnu Commons mall. Being developed by the CIRI Native Corporation in partnership with a Californian developer, the "big box center" as one CIRI spokesman put it, will sit on 95 acres on Muldoon Road across the street from Bartlett High School and near the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Developers behind the project have touted that the mall will offer five times the amount in retail space that the Dimond Mall currently has. More importantly, the Tikahtnu Commons hopes to separate itself from the image of messy suburban sprawl by offering heated and possibly covered pathways linking from store to store. The mall is also expected to offer space for over 70 small local businesses while a street with large sidewalks will cut straight down through the mall's huge parking lot and act as sort of a Main Street with retail buildings built up to the sidewalk with parking in the rear. Besides Target, tenants already signed up to later occupy space in the new mall include Best Buy, Lowes, Regal Cinemas, Pet Smart, and Kohl's. Of course Tikahtnu Commons will not be the first "lifestyle center" type of mall to hit Anchorage as Glenn Square, just minutes west of the Tikahtnu mall, will also offer a variety of national chain stores, space for local retail, and more pedestrian friendly design -- most of which have already opened.
The question I have however is will the Tikahtnu Commons live up to what it's promised to be in terms of urban design? Judging by the looks of its competitor, Glenn Square, the answer would be no. Back in 2006 when Glenn Square was only a name, developers behind the project announced that the mall would set itself apart from your typical strip mall by offering a sort of village setting that would play host to an active public space complete with retail and dining within walking distance. Instead, Glenn Square has come to resemble the parcel of land in Dimond in which big box stores sit side by side with an ocean of asphalt in front. The only difference here is that the long row of big box stores has been snapped in half so as to have the storefronts face each other with a large swath of parking in between. After all, there's not a lot of space in Mountain View like what Dimond could offer. Also, despite Michaels, Petco, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Old Navy being open for a while, the mall was always eerily quiet during my few visits to the mall this summer. Should we expect this fate to happen with the Tikahntu Commons? Could it be at even more of a disadvantage due to its lurking location on the edge of the city? Or will the larger number of retailers and its Main Street design (which Glenn Square doesn't have) give Tikahtnu a niche? Unlike what we see in sprawling suburbs of the Lower-48, the Tikahtnu Commons will not be able to sprout cookie cutter homes around itself to sustain good business as the mall will sit right next to Fort Richardson. Acres of untouched forest in the area is also off limits as it sits under Fort Rich claim. Now I'm not saying the Tikahtnu Commons will become a mini ghost town, but it really seems that both this mall as well as the Glenn Square mall have seen their time come and go. That time being the 1990's. We'll see how this will all unfold in the coming months and years.