Community Retail: The Lifestyle Center 2.0https://www.chutegerdeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Lifestyle2.0.jpg1440428Chute GerdemanChute Gerdemanhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/27b8b1d5d4480e694e1d763231b8e868?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Could you imagine predicting 25 years into the future of retail? Hard to wrap your head around, right? Well, that’s essentially what Shaheen Sadeghi has done. Starting his career in the fashion industry with prominent positions at VF Corporation, Gotcha Sportswear, and Quicksilver, Sadeghi describes a time when he remembers the Mall of America removing benches because they didn’t want teens to hang out. Times were changing, and the youth of tomorrow was demanding something different, and that’s exactly what he set out to create.
With a fresh take on commercial retail, LAB Holding (LAB standing for “Little American Business”) was born in ’91. Sadeghi’s untraditional design perspective soon after led to creating The LAB Anti-Mall. Catering to a lost generation of youth, The Lab took shape in a refurbished factory in Orange County, California bringing together food, fashion, community, art, and music, and promoted local culture rather than importing traditional concepts. Bucking the trend on formulaic solutions, and paving a path of localism, Sadeghi also converted a former citrus-storage warehouse into an artisanal dining hall called The Anaheim Packing District and launched maybe one of the most conscientious concepts, an eco-friendly retail campus called Camp.
Ahead of the times in its origination, Camp brought a high touch, low tech, but full on community experience to life that feels even more relevant today. Located in the SoBeCa District of Cosa Mesa California Camp is a destination focused on promoting health, fitness, and eco-friendliness.
It’s a one-stop shop for sustainable living with airstreams selling succulents, retail stores stocked with curated collections of apparel and essential oils, and restaurants catering to gourmet vegetarian and organic cuisines. Not to mention when guests aren’t shopping or nourishing their bodies they can enjoy a class of barre or sweat it out in hot yoga. Rounding out the holistic experience are monthly educational events, exhibits, art shows, workshops, and music sessions to nurture the community vibe.
It’s honestly hard to believe that this environment could even be cultivated. It’s as if this place has been decades in the making with artifacts collected along the way. Extraordinarily eclectic in design the thoughtful elements all harmoniously blend together for a unified experience.
Greenery flourishes throughout the space and provides softness to wood exteriors and steel structural elements. Communal areas are brought together with fire pits and community tables, while a fountain made of oil drums drips a renewed energy. Rocking chairs are detailed with colorful pops of yarn and hammocks hang in between trees encouraging you to rest at your own risk.
Found objects like an old bike turned planter, and metals seats from the likes of an industrial mower create amusing moments of functional art. Messages of positivity and sustainability are found throughout the campus from parking spaces to the stairs. A campus map is etched into stone rocks, and restaurant menus can be accessed at a bank of mailboxes. It’s an emotionally connected, mind and body community commerce experience.
Beyond Camp, Sadeghi and the LAB Holding crew have progressively continued their efforts as cultural engineers. Most recently crafting plans for the development of a disconnected collection of units in North Long Beach called the Canvas, and a 520-square-foot mixed-use greenhouse space in Costa Mesa called The Plant.
While retail developers today struggle to find the mall solution from the tenant mix to customer experience, it begs the question are they missing the cultural connection? In 1994 Sadeghi was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “The American mall tries to be all things to all people, which is hopeless.” Is it time to focus on a connection before consumption?