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Calendar >  Vista’s Outdoor Lifestyle Centers Plan to Thrive

Vista’s Outdoor Lifestyle Centers Plan to Thrive

By   /  July 1, 2021  /  No Comments

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Sunshine & Shopping: How Vista’s Outdoor Lifestyle Centers Plan to Thrive
Strong City Support Fuels Success of Vista Village & North County Square

While 25% of America’s roughly 1,000 malls are expected to close over the next three-to-five years, many outdoor “lifestyle” shopping centers are expected to gain popularity, especially as many of us have grown accustomed to and demand more outdoor time and fresh air.

These lifestyle shopping centers – some complete with cobblestone sidewalks, outdoor seating, cast-iron lighting, or Art Deco-inspired neon signs –  include an eclectic mix of anchor retailers with eateries, breweries, entertainment venues and even residential units. These are not your typical strip malls. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, two outdoor lifestyle centers in the City of Vista plan to not only thrive, but are also repositioning post-pandemic and reimagining the live, work, play, and shop experience.

Below, we take a deeper dive into how they have helped their tenants survive the pandemic, plans for future growth, as well as how the City has supported their innovative efforts to increase foot traffic and encourage stronger community connections.

Vista Village

Located near the heart of the City’s thriving Downtown, Vista Village – whose motto is shop, dine, play –  is a 195,009-square-foot outdoor lifestyle shopping center with a unique collection of more than 30 name-brand and boutique shopping, dining and service businesses. Anchor tenants include  Frazier Farms, Staples, Pets Plus, and Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas theater.

In an effort to help support its tenants the past year, Vista Village pivoted its marketing to an all-digital format, and created a number of social media campaigns to increase traffic to the center’s social media platforms and website so that shoppers could more easily stay connected with tenants.

“The pandemic was an unprecedented time for all of us, especially our restaurants and retailers,” said Dana Duncan, Senior Property Manager, Vista Village. “Our tenants are resilient, though, and they quickly learned to adjust and make the changes needed to provide their customers with continued great service and/or food. They came up with innovative ways to meet the needs of their customers such as take-out family meals, mobile pick-ups, and take-home ceramic paintings. All of this kept them connected with their customers, and it provided a sense of well-being and normalcy in the community even during the height of the pandemic that really made a difference to the community. And, by staying connected and working through the difficulties the pandemic posed, it kept businesses afloat during this incredibly difficult time.”

One of those tenants is Little Cakes Kitchen. While 2020 was a rollercoaster year for the award-winning bakery, Little Cakes did experience an increase in sales, largely in part due to the expansion the business had seen in 2019 into Gelson’s Market grocery stores. 

“If it hadn’t been for that expansion,  the business might not have made it through this past year,” said owner Don Hein.  “However, coming through to 2021, we are seeing strong sales at the start of the year.  We just need to keep things going to get our past dues paid, but we feel amazing that we were supported and continue to be supported by the community of Vista.”

Hein also credited the property managers of Vista Village and the City for helping his business survive during the pandemic. 

Below, we take a deeper dive into how they have helped their tenants survive the pandemic, plans for future growth, as well as how the City has supported their innovative efforts to increase foot traffic and encourage stronger community connections.

Like his fellow business owners in Vista Village, Hein is looking forward to more foot traffic this summer and getting back to business as usual.  

“Already people are starting to get out more, heading to the movie theater and enjoying the many dining spots and breweries the town has to offer,” he said. “We look forward to tourists returning and, yes, we are thinking autumn will be a time when people want to celebrate with loved ones even more enthusiastically than before.  And weddings are already starting to book up quickly, making us very, very busy with catering orders.”

With business starting to pick up even more, Hein and his crew also plan to renovate the inside of Little Cakes, as well as introduce  some new products. 

“We really love this community,” he said. “The people of Vista have supported our business in ways my family could have only dreamed of.  They treat us like a part of their family, actually and we are so grateful.  The center itself is a great, warm, welcoming place to visit and we are very proud to have been a part of it for over a decade now.”

In an effort to help attract more patrons to Vista Village, the City has worked with the center’s owners on a number of projects and initiatives. 

“The City has also supported the center by providing innovative citywide campaigns to help Vista Village and other local businesses increase traffic and engage customers,” Duncan said. “Examples of the city’s creativity include the Vista Bucks gift card program and the Vista GooseChase, a digital treasure hunt throughout the City. Each of these programs brought shoppers to Vista Village and kept them engaged and shopping despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic.”

As restrictions continue to ease and the economy rebounds, Duncan expects Vista Village to continue on its growth trajectory

“As an outdoor lifestyle shopping center, Vista Village is in a uniquely positive position. People have truly appreciated Vista Village’s open-air atmosphere, something which makes us the perfect place for customers to shop and dine, and will continue to do so in the future,” she said. “Like so many businesses, the pandemic has caused us to take a fresh look at the plans we had already laid out.”

“We anticipate significant growth in traffic and sales, and based on the comeback as we begin the post-COVID healing process, it looks like our instincts on that are correct,” Duncan added. “However, it is too soon post-COVID to outline our five-year strategy, which is being re-examined based on where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow.”

North County Square 

North County Square is one of two premier outdoor lifestyle shopping centers in Vista

In order to keep the center vibrant, North County Square, which includes over 668,000 square feet of retail space, continues to attract and maintain strong anchor retail tenants while boosting its outdoor gathering spaces and aesthetics, adding to its mixed-use appeal.

Even before the pandemic, the center’s owners were positioning North County Square as a lifestyle and destination center. North County Square includes the top two national neighborhood retailers and grocers (Target and Wal-Mart), along with other popular brands including Living Spaces, Old Navy, Ross, Famous Footwear, T-Mobile, Mattress Firm, Biggies Burgers, Eyeglass World, Michaels, and Petsmart. North County Square was the first center in San Diego County to include an ALDI Food Market, a popular brand of German family-owned discount supermarket chains with over 10,000 stores in 20 countries.

During the last year, the center adapted quickly in order to support  retailer’s with the “essential” qualification to stay open, such as Target, Aldi, and WalMart.

North County Square’s mixed-use development includes plenty of outdoor space.

Besides supporting existing tenants, North County Square continues to woo new retailers and eateries as part of its long term strategy of keeping the center vibrant while adding value to the community. 

“We had a very successful Souplantation but the entire company went Chapter 7 bankrupt within weeks of the COVID lock down,” said William Valaika, President of the North County Square Owners Association. “We are working with a strong sports/pizza restaurant and creating outdoor patio dining on that building to continue forward with the trends that have helped some restaurants survive during this time.” 

North County Square officials are working with the City of Vista to bring in a variety of different uses to the center, such as more service type businesses, medical, athletic, educational, and entertainment.

“We generate approximately 3.5 million customer visits to our center each year. We want to continue to enhance our offerings to a wide swath of customers that travel down the 78 freeway daily.  Easy freeway access to those 140+ thousand cars per day is a significant advantage for a large lifestyle  center like North County Square,” Valaika said.  “We will have some opportunities to enhance our tenant mix with larger and smaller retailers and restaurants that have a proven demand.”

North County Square is also considering adding a significant residential component.

“The owners of North County Square think that bringing a significant number of apartments would be helpful to the community from a housing standpoint,” Valaika said. “Those residents would have great metro type access to all the amenities around our center, including the quick and easy access to the freeway that North County Square maintains. “We are studying these ideas now and hope to present some proposals to the planning authorities as we develop ideas that we think will be of benefit to all.” 

And while Valaika believes online shopping is here to stay, people still like to get out and touch and feel the things they’re going to purchase, something that will help keep North County Square thriving.    

“During the past year, we’ve worked with all our retailers to provide fast and efficient ways to support their click and pick up options on site.  The last mile distribution of goods is what we’re all about and that can take the form of online or in store,” he said. “It’s our job to provide that last mile platform to support what our retailers are providing to our customers in North County.” 

As Vista’s outdoor lifestyle shopping centers plan for the future, the City of Vista will continue to work with them on strategic planning and development  to improve and keep them relevant for the future.

“The resiliency of our local shopping centers are a testament to not only how COVID-19 changed the way we shop locally, but also because of innovative landlord-tenant-city collaborations,” said Kevin Ham, Vista’s Economic Development Director.  “I am bullish on the future of both Vista Village and North County Square as they leverage opportunities to provide new and different experiences while creating a sense of place. This will benefit local businesses, the economy, and the overall community.”

For More Information Contact:
Kevin Ham, Economic Development Director, City of Vista

P: 760.643.5244
E: kham@cityofvista.com

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