by Paul R. Spitzzeri
A little under fifteen years from its incorporation, the City of Industry created a general plan to guide its future development and the 1971 document remains in effect today nearly a half-century later. The plan was overseen by planning consultants Gruen Associates, a firm established in 1950 by Austrian-born Victor Gruen, a visionary architect and urban planner.
Gruen, a Jew who fled Austria during the Nazi anschluss or forced annexation of the country in 1938, settled in New York, where he made a name for himself designing retail stores. He was also known for The Gruen Effect, a concept that stated that well-designed shops with beautiful displays and welcoming elements would attract people to buy impulsively. His designs maximized the effect with excellent results for retailers.
Yet, Gruen also noted America’s suburban development and observed that a “third place” in the lives of residents was needed after home and work. He took his experience with retail shopping and came up with an idea intended to blend it with a place to foster community. The result was the shopping mall.
The mall, however, wasn’t only to be a place for retail commerce in Gruen’s thinking. He also wanted office space, apartments, medical facilities, child-care centers, and libraries to be included. The idea was also to get people out of their cars, which Gruen loathed, and into a self-contained environment that included pedestrian-oriented facilities.
An early project was the Northland Center near Detroit, a massive 159-acre regional shopping center and model for future examples and which was finished in 1954. Then, Dayton Company, which later became the Target Corporation, hired Gruen to build the first indoor shopping mall in Edina, Minnestora a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The mall opened in 1956 and included a “town square” or center court, which became a mall staple across the United States. What that first mall, and almost all subsequent ones, lacked were the other facilities in Gruen’s concept.
As he revolutionized suburban shopping, though, Gruen realized that urban centers were decaying, so he shifted attention to creating outdoor pedestrian malls to revitalize city cores in places like Kalamazoo, Michigan; Boulder, Colorado; Ft. Worth, Texas; and Fresno here in California. Locally, his outdoor pedestrian mall in Pomona closed Second Street to cars in an attempt to revitalize that city’s decaying downtown, though its success was ultimately fleeting, as was the case with most of these new ideas.
Gruen returned to his native Vienna in the late 1960s, disenchanted with the retail malls he’d created, though the mall continued to be massively popular through the 1980s. Interestingly, a variation of his outdoor pedestrian malls became the rage, specifically “lifestyle centers,” where the combination of shopping, housing, entertainment and other elements are integrated. These can be found locally in Brea, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino Hills and other areas.
The City of Industry eventually had a large indoor suburban shopping mall like that popularized by Gruen, when, in 1976, the Puente Hills Mall opened. Though frequently remodeled and with many changes to the retail scene around it and in general, the mall is still in operation four decades later.
Gruen had left America a few years prior to the City of Industry General Plan, but his firm continued on and developed the plan taking into account “certain unique characteristics” found in the city and not elsewhere. In its prologue, the firm noted that general plans formulate “aims, goals and objectives” that promote “orderly growth, sound fiscal policies and enhancement of existing values.” One of these latter included the Homestead as a “historic-cultural resource.”
Noting that “general planning” meant looking at “broad policies and objetives which a city should consider over the years at times when it makes a decision that directly or indirectly bears on its destiny,” Gruen Associates identified “basic conclusions” in a “conclusive tone” for the plan.
The goals and objectives section identified the primary goal of the city as “creating and maintaining an ideal setting for manufacturing, distribution and industrial facilities.” Six objectives included:
- estabishing a solid employment base;
- initiating capital improvement programs to serve city employers and stimulate national investment;
- creating a strong tax base to support growth;
- developing an efficient highway and street network;
- perpetuating or instigating “programs to beautify the City of Industry throughout, and to conserve its natural resources,” presumably including the Homestead; and
- encouraging commercial, professional, and service elements to support those manufacturing, distribution and industrial uses.
Future posts in this series will look into the more detailed aspects of the Plan, including its incorporation of the future development of the Homestead, so check back during upcoming Tuesdays for more.