It’s a sunny Sunday morning, and the scene feels familiar on Rachel’s Kitchen’s busy front patio: Breakfasters down scrambles and smoothies. An acoustic duo covers The Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon.” A car rolls by.
Actually, that part’s new. Last month, the tall construction fencing came down, launching the shopping center’s new roadside era. As in, there’s now a two-way street through what has always been a pedestrian walkway. But, says Chris Connors, owner of Rachel’s District location, don’t go diving for cover.
“When I first heard about the road, people made it seem like Green Valley Parkway was gonna come through here,” he says as a car creeps down the stamped concrete just beyond his patio. “Obviously, it’s far from that.”
Time will tell if the District’s newish owner, Vestar Development, accomplishes its goals—creating customer convenience (44 close parking spaces have been added) and aiding merchants’ visibility, according to marketing director Kimberly Daskas—with the new configuration. Walking from Anthropologie at one end to REI at the other, fears that the outdoor mall’s comfortable vibe would be paved over feel unfounded. The “traffic” seems unobtrusive, new tenants (accessory shop Charming Charlie, Luna Rosa Ristorante) are moving in, and Rachel’s patio is actually larger than before.
“I came to the District for the outdoor space, and I love this. It looks similar, but it’s different,” Connors says, waving to a couple at a nearby table. “Those two were totally against the project when they first heard about it. But I’ve seen them back here six or seven times since the road opened 10 days ago.”