Camelback Colonade Site and Water Conservation

Our Project is the retrofit of the abandoned Mervyn’s Department store at the multiply renovated and altered Camelback Colonade Shopping Mall in the Biltmore neighborhood of Phoenix, Arizona. The property converted farms fields into an open air mall in the early 60s. The Mall had two department stores with a connecting shopping concourse of smaller local, regional and national stores. The two department stores served as the major anchors and draws for the mall. The connecting shopping concourse was seen as a commercial main street without cars and was landscaped accordingly. The cars were all parked in an asphalt field beyond the exterior walls of the facility. The removing of farm fields, and construction of concrete sidewalks and asphalt paving increased the amount of run off, by replacing permeable surfaces with impermeable.

As tastes and markets changed, the mall adapted to keep retailers and shoppers. As HVAC equipment improved, and the draw of more recent and modern climate control Malls improved, the Sears & Rhodes Mall was enclosed and renamed the Colonade Mall. The enclosure was a response to the climate, the 1970s energy crisis and to make the renovate mall similar to the newer malls under construction. This modification increased the amount of impermeable surfaces and removed most of the plantings, increase storm water run off. The radiant heat and run off generated by the facility contributed to the decline of the neighborhood and the mall. People moved to better neighborhoods, and the stores followed.

In the early oughts, the mall was revisioned as a strip mall, following similar national trends as they waned elsewhere. The north side of the shopping concourse was removed, along with the concourse roof. A grocery store was added to the south side of the mall. Outbuildings were built closer to the street, allowing the tenants from the removed spaces a place to relocate. A freeway was constructed along the western edge of the property, with ramps that emptied and entered the property directly. The removed parking was replaced with a garage. However, these efforts did little to abate the heat island or the run off issues. The roof along the removed portioned was replaced with asphalt parking. The out buildings replace asphalt with roofing. Some additional plantings were planted along the Camelback elevations to make the mall more attractive. Yet, few of these upgrades dealt with the run off or radiant heat issues, though they met city code requirements, not people requirements.

Our primary focus was the rejuvenation of the existing Mervyn’s structure. Along the west and south elevations, there are a few box planters along the façade. Each plant provides a small amount of shade to cool the masonry façade, and provide minimal, at best, shading for the users of the store. In neither case, do they address the run off issues, and they look like an afterthought, and are not well maintained. The planters should be replaced to be sited between the driveway and the pedestrian walkway, so that shade made be provided for patrons to the mall. Additional shade structures, augmented with regional plants, are to be constructed to increase the amount of shading. These elements will increase the pleasure of shopping at the mall, and shade parts of the existing structure, reducing heat gain. The planters should be design to accept run off from the drive and walkways, filtering the run off before it reaches the aquifer or the drain. This will also provide additional water for the plants. Additional, plantings with aromas should be used to heighten and enlighten the senses as they prepare to, or celebrate their shopping.
Additional plantings are to be planted throughout the parking field, cover and above the requirements by code. Providing additional plants will reduce run off, keep pavement cooler and increase the amount of shaded parking spaces for patrons. The planters should be used as collectors for run off and as a first filtration system for that run off. Additional, the underperforming asphalt should be replaced with pervious paving, with drains that collect ALL water run off on site in underground tanks. The water can be reused to water plants between rainfall events. The use of biofilters will treat the water of any contaminants collected on the asphalt plain, as well as the Low Impact Design measures as outlined for planters.

Plants, water features, and shade structures are to be designed to create pleasant circulation zones for patrons to gather and walk to the retail entrances. These structures should be similar to those in use at Desert Ridge Mall in north Phoenix. These elements will increase the connections to new transit opportunities and developments along Camelback and 20h Streets. These connections will reconnect the Colonade with Duck and Decanter, Town and Country Shopping Center, the neighborhoods, and to the developments at 24th Street and Camelback, fulfilling a village Center plan for a pedestrian connector. A botanical bridge across the freeway can create an attraction no amount of advertising or signage could.

Where additional courtyards are cut into the existing building will be protected with shading devices to keep the courtyard cool and shade the windows. Plantings should be similar to those that ring the building, creating desirable spaces to be in. The courtyards should be considered a part of the natural ventilation system, pulling air out through the building. Water features should be incorporated into the courtyards to increase the microclimate affect. Water collected from rainfall will be piped to the holding facility under the parking lot. Discharge water from the HVAC system will also be collected in the storage tanks for site watering reuse.

The current site lighting meets the current engineering requirements for security and safety. However, the quality of light reduces that security and safety, do to the temperature and the glare created by the “engineered” lighting checklist. Lights should be used that create a better color rendition, reducing the glare. In many cases, the lower and more efficient fixtures will reduce energy needs and with glare reduced and the better color rendition, fewer lights are needed and security will be increased because of increased activity at side walk cafes and events, made more pleasurable with better quality lighting, remaking a struggling neighborhood.

All signage and building lighting needs to considerately designed as well. Lighting the side of a building, or the use of unique sign elements do create a sense of interest and land mark, but excessive design or use creates an eyesore and an energy hog. Standard tenant signage will need to be adapted to meet the tight energy performance guidelines of the center. ALL site lighting elements need to keep the light on site and not brighten the sky. Interior signage must meet the energy requirements as well.
Alternative energy production can happen on the roof of the mall and the Mervyn’s store. Underneath, the roofs should be restructures to allow for the development of green roof systems that are best for the Arizona Climate. A pilot program between the U of A Agriculture Department, the ASU School of Sustainability, and the NAU School of Forestry to research a variety of green roofs that will survive in our harsh, hot climate, and how we can integrate them with renewable energy resources to improve their productivity. Green roofs reduce storm water runoff, urban heat island effect and could possible grow the food for the restaurants underneath.

Plumbing fixtures within the mall will be low flow fixtures and will be outfitted with sensors to ensure use only when needed. Sensors should be recalibrated every month to ensure no phantom flushes, and proper operation to prevent non-flushes. All grey water will be collected, treated and be reused for site watering. Where possible, non-water/non-chemical cleansing devices will be used to sanitize hands, facilities, clothes, sheets, dishes and tables. Restaurants will be banned from supplying water to patrons, unless asked for specifically by each patron, saving water that is not drunk, and the energy and water to sanitize a lightly used glass. Similar measures will be required of future hotel developments. Tenants will be required to use biodegradable and non-toxic sanitizing cleansers, allowing for grey water reuse, a more pleasant working and shopping experience, and less damage to the environment.

Lastly, the ALL projects at the center will require LEED Silver Certification and meet the new City of Phoenix Green Code. The mall will also investigate how to become a certified urban oasis and habitat for migratory birds and regional animals. This investigation should include the participation of the Desert Botanical Garden and the Audubon Society. Collectively, each of these measures will make this mall among the greenest in the country. Continued practice will maintain that status. Such practices will make this an attractive facility where people will want to live, work, play, shop and eat, kicking off an amazing redevelopment of the area. And all of this will increase the social interactions of the people in Phoenix and the money made at the Mall.


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