Downtown Alhambra Fights Back : Stylish Shop Mall Echoes Diverse Architectural Heritage

Times Staff Writer

Alhambra is not about to be “malled”: Thursday’s opening of the $19-million Alhambra Place downtown shopping center is part of the community’s effort to preserve the central retail core in the face of competition from huge regional malls.

Rather than allowing a developer to erect an out-of-scale, warehouse-like structure, the San Gabriel Valley city established architectural guidelines that helped Charles Kober Associates/Los Angeles design a shopping complex on the site of the former City Hall at the southeast corner of Main Street and Garfield Avenue.

“Rhythmic facade articulation best describes how Alhambra Place meets the design criteria set forth in the 1981 design guide prepared for the city,” according to Kenneth Long, project designer at the Kober firm. “The undulating geometry of roof heights, windows, signage and tile banding continues and reflects the city’s range of styles, from traditional 1920s Main Street storefronts to 1940s/1950s Showcase Modern.”


Developed by Sutter Hill Ltd., Palo Alto, the three-building complex abuts the sidewalks with stores opening both onto the sidewalk and into the inner courtyard leading to city parking areas, he added.

An 80-foot-long white tubular metal structural covered with dark green shade fabric spans the two buildings, providing an inviting atmosphere, Long said.

The mall includes 53,717 square feet in one-story building, for small shops; a two-story Mervyn’s department store with 83,000 square feet; The Adorable Shop with 25,500 square feet; Titus Pharmacy with 12,000 square feet on two levels and a 9,200-square-foot Black Angus Restaurant. The Kober firm did not design the Mervyn’s or Adorable buildings.

Participating in the project are: M. H. Golden Co., San Diego, general contractor; KPFF, Los Angeles, structural engineer; Sullivan & Associates, Los Angeles, mechanical engineer; Michael Garris & Associates, Los Angeles, electrical engineer, and POD, Los Angeles, landscape architect.

Sutter Hill Ltd. has developed nearly 50 shopping centers throughout the West during the past years and has renovated existing centers by modernizing and expanding their retail space.

The architectural firm is a member of the Kober Group, an organization of architectural and planning firms in Chicago, Coral Gables (Miami), Fla., Dallas, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle.