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Fall 2012
Park Place

Pop-Up provided outdoor fun while attracting shoppers inside the San Francisco Centre.

1. The Problem 

Pop-Up-Park-Chess-Set-2-copyWestfield San Francisco Centre had a problem: the center’s historic dome, designed by renowned architect Albert Pissis, and one of the significant features of the building since its opening in 1896, is a prime draw for visitors. Unfortunately the fourth floor—the viewing area for the dome—had to undergo construction due to two new restaurants moving in. Located two blocks from busy Union Square, the nearly 1.5-million-square-foot center attracts some 20 million visitors each year. But how did leasing managers keep foot traffic strong through the construction phase?

2. The Solution

A pop-up was the answer.

Taking note of San Francisco’s broader trend towards creating “parklets” throughout the city, the center’s m anagers decided to create a pop-up indoor park. San Francisco’s “Pavements to Parks” project converts excess space along streets and intersections into small urban parks with benches, café tables, planters and artwork. Westfield introduced its own version, the Pop-Up Park Under the Dome, in April.

The pop-up was designed with a park theme complete with picnic tables, artificial turf and even blue sky overhead. “We were looking for a way to create some extra energy, create a reason for dwell time, and really make that environment better during this phase as we gear up for the new restaurants,” says Shelly Schembre, vice president and senior general manager at Westfield San Francisco Centre. “This is just something a little different than sitting on a bench in a center. It offers people a little escape and a nice break to the  day.”

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3. The Execution

Westfield’s Pop-Up Park offered a contemporary twist on traditional mall seating. The indoor park consisted of four different “pods” set on a circular swatch of artificial turf that spans 10 to 15 feet in diameter. Each area had its own unique design flair and amenities that included items such as park benches, Adirondack-style chairs, a giant-sized chess set and a miniature replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. Combined, the four seating areas spanned about 1,000 square feet. “All of the pods [were] very colorful with the green turf and colorful seating areas,” says Schembre. Three of the four areas were also enhanced with a two-sided flat screen that runs video of nearby Crissy Field and other parks around San Francisco.

The Pop-Up Park replaced some of the existing seating. “One of the things that we wanted to achieve was to provide the unexpected to the consumer outside of the traditional seating elements. We wanted to pick things that were more whimsical and fun, and also to allow for socialization,” says Schembre.

For example, the park included soft seating that was designed to look like giant pebbles. In addition, the Pop-Up Park took advantage of the center’s existing projection light system to project a “sky” on the interior of the dome to add to the park-like atmosphere. The center uses the projection system to produce a special 3-D light show twice a year—once during the holiday shopping season and again during the summer months.

Westfield also linked its Pop-Up Park to the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge by adding a replica of the iconic bridge that measures about 15 feet long by 10 feet high. “The center tied that structure together with the other park-like features to create its own parklet under the dome,” says Schembre. People were able to relax, have lunch, play chess and take photos next to the replica of the Golden Gate.

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4. The Future

Ultimately, the Pop-Up Park met and exceeded expectations for drawing visitors to the fourth floor during construction. “We definitely have seen a lot of traffic at the Pop-Up Park pods,” says Schembre. Weekends were often the busiest with wait times to reserve time on the chessboard. One tenant even used the Pop-Up Park as a unique venue to host a meeting for its regional store managers.

Westfield had initially planned to remove the Pop-Up Park at the end of July after construction on the new restaurants was complete. But due to its success it remained in its current location through Labor Day. The park may pop-up again in a different locale with a new theme.

The Pop-Up Park was designed in pod sections to allow the management team to move it to other parts of the center or change the aesthetic. “We might change out the design to put some fall touches on it, and maybe even consider a holiday application to it eventually,” Schembre adds. The management team is already discussing new Pop-Up Park ideas, such as doing a theme for the upcoming football season or working with sponsors to activate the Pop-Up Park to engage shoppers. “It has had such high value for us, and we really want to continue to add little surprises to it.”

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