Updates on URBANOLOGY

A Case Study for the Senses

2014 saw Downtown Anaheim explosively revive its urban fabric.  In the spring, Brookfield Residential welcomed its first move-ins to The Domain, a community of 100 stacked flats and townhomes. On May 31, The Packing House, developed and curated by LAB Holding, Inc., opened as California’s most popular new food hall and as the nucleus of the restaurant-oriented Packing District. Most recently, an eight-story, class-A building leased its entire 191,556 square feet to St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare -- Orange County’s largest office lease of the year. The City also launched a branding campaign to propel it success. 

last week, JSPR worked with these players and Urban Land Institute Orange County/Inland Empire to produce "Exit Suburbia: Inside the Anaheim Packing District" case study and site tour -- the most delicious site tour ever, since it included all the Packing House vendors. JSPR President Jack Skelley organized and moderated the panel.

The standing-room-only event included Carrie Rossefeld of GlobeSt, who published the below report:

A Regional Experience in Downtown Anaheim

By Carrie Rossenfeld | Orange County

ANAHEIM, CA—The revitalization taking place in Downtown Anaheim contains many elements, but it’s most clearly seen in the Packing House, a modern/retro food hall housing entrepreneurial culinary vendors, bulk grocery stands, quaint pubs and other whimsical vendors. The place, reminiscent of a smaller, more intimate Chelsea Market in New York, was the ideal setting for last night’s ULI Orange County/Inland Empire presentation “Exit Suburbia: Inside the Anaheim Packing District. A Case Study and Tour of Orange County’s Dynamic Urban Revitalization.”

Several stakeholders in the new downtown area spoke at the event, including John Woodhead, director of community and economic development for Anaheim; Shaheen Sadeghi, president and CEO of LAB Holding LLC, which created the Packing House and curates the vendors; Beth Callender, principal of Greenhaus Marketing; and David Bonaparte, managing principal of the PRES Cos. Woodhead said the guide for downtown development here was updated in 2007 to reflect the urban revitalization it is currently undergoing: a mix of residential, office and retail, with two tenets in place: getting people to come downtown after 5:00 p.m. and “We want the public to enjoy this resource—the Packing House—from its interior as well as its exterior.”

Bringing in LAB Holding allowed that to happen. Sadeghi and his team developed the Packing House from what it was into what it is today.

The region is rich in history and culture, and the Packing District is beginning to reflect that. Once an area in which immigrants grew grapes for winemaking, Anaheim is 70% ethnic, said Mayor Tom Tait. “Forty-million people come to this district each year, and the people want local flavor.”

That is what they are getting at the Packing House, which offers authentic cuisines including Indian, sushi, ramen and Vietnamese and French crepes as well as gourmet grilled cheese crafted by local artisans and food merchants. The two-story building, once an actual packing house for Sunkist citrus fruit, also sells non-edible goods and gift items, and visitors are likely to see items as unlikely as a tractor and a linens cart within feet of each other.

Across the street from the Packing House is the Domain, a collection of 100 stacked flats and townhomes ranging from 800 square feet to 1,600 square feet. O’Brien explained that the homes, developed and owned by Brookfield Residential, are centrally located in the District and offer residents services and amenities that include a rooftop retreat and technology prewiring. In addition, they’re within walking distance of all the Packing District has to offer, including the Packing House, Anaheim Brewery, Umami Burger and a host of other community amenities.

Sadeghi said the Packing House offers “multi levels of satisfaction and experience. You can’t just be a retailer or a restaurant—it’s boring.” Basically, it takes a page from the current trend of experiential retailing that has breathed new life into the sector.

Callendar spoke of the rebranding of downtown Anaheim as CtrCity Anaheim, a square mile of shops, restaurants, craft breweries, the Packing House, office and residential developments that offer a sense of place for residents and visitors. She compared it to the emerging trend of people wanting to experience a region—the local cuisine, beer, etc.—rather than a chain restaurant or a Budweiser—“although there are still plenty of consumers who prefer the Cheesecake Factory and Budweiser.”

Whether they’re locals or Disneyland visitors from other parts of the country, this area is beginning to offer both options and a depth of experience usually seen in larger, more established cities.