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November 12, 2016

The “Santana Row Effect”

By Angela Ruggiero |

MERCURY NEWS PUBLISHED: November 12, 2016 | UPDATED: November 14, 2016

Karie Bennett recalls selling a lot of lipstick in 2008.

Like everywhere during the recession, business was down at her Atelier Studio salon at Santana Row. But even if they weren’t spending, people continued to come to the San Jose center to soak up the European atmosphere, stroll among the high-end shops and linger at the open-air cafes, and indulge in a small cosmetic luxury.

Santana Row offered a gathering place and sense of community, not just a place to shop, Bennett said. Patrons enjoy their lunch in the sidewalk seating area of the Left Bank restaurant at Santana Row in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. This new architectural trend know as “city centers” or “lifestyle centers” has caught on all over the Bay Area, mixing residential, retail, restaurants, hotels and the like all around town squares. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group) Patrons enjoy their lunch in the sidewalk seating area of the Left Bank restaurant at Santana Row in San Jose on Oct. 25.

Indeed, the Bay Area is embracing what has come to be known as the Santana Row effect — a nationwide planning trend that seeks to undo the great American enclosed mall and the cars that come with it.

The concept is city center developments. At the heart of each one generally is an Italian-style “piazza” or plaza, surrounded by open-air retail shops and restaurants, with mixed uses of either residential units above ground-floor retail, office spaces nearby, plus hotels or even theaters.

Mountain View’s will be completed next year, San Ramon brought in a renowned architect for its, and Santa Clara’s — approved in June — is going to be so big it needs to be completed in several phases over the next decade.

But San Jose’s is the model that everyone can’t help but mention.

On any given sunny day, the light reflects the warm colors of the building facades that sport balconies and stone arches on Santana Row. People stroll, sit and chat on benches, as faint, classical music streams from unseen speakers.

Bennett, who now owns two Atelier Studio salons at Santana Row, says the concept works because it provides a magical snippet of culture that can’t be re-created elsewhere…