On Halloween weekend, Del Mar Highlands Shopping Center hosted a trick-or-treat event — children sought candy from the local shops and community members danced to the band Left for Dead playing in the center's amphitheater.
It's an example of the kind of activity that brings the community together, which Highlands General Manager Elizabeth Schreiber says is as important as freshening up aesthetics in the plans to "reimagine" the 20-year-old center.
Schreiber seems to have the same goals as Carmel Valley's community plan, which calls for the center to balance social and recreational needs with shopping functions.
"We really want to have more gathering places, people places," Schreiber said.
The Del Mar Highlands representative met last week with the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board's regional subcommittee as the center seeks input on ways to improve. They are continuing the process by surveying tenants and plan to do market research with center customers in early December.
They also welcome comments on their Web site at delmarhighlandstowncenter.
Schreiber said they really want to improve the center's outdoor elements. She views the many-stepped amphitheater space where the Halloween event was held and where the center's towering Christmas tree will be placed in December as "tired and ready for a face-lift."
They want to keep the pop-jet fountain that children (and dogs) love playing in but are looking to soften up the space so it is more inviting, with not so much concrete.
Board member Anne Harvey said people enjoy having places to sit that can be either around others or a quiet space to talk or people-watch.
"That's why everyone sits by Starbucks," Harvey said.
Schreiber said they are interested in bringing nice restaurants into the old Warehouse spot, as well as the old Los Cabos space. Subcommittee co-chair Jan Fuchs said she'd love to see a neighborhood pub in the Los Cabos spot.
"We do need good restaurants," said resident Karen Cody, suggesting Tender Greens, an eatery in Liberty Station.
Schreiber said Tender Greens was among ones they were looking at, to bring recognizable names and the best of San Diego to Carmel Valley.
"I really see that as a void in this area," said Schreiber. She said when people come in for a meal they will also be encouraged to walk around and visit some of their great local retail shops.
Board chairman Frisco White reiterated the need for a doughnut shop, not just for the treats. He said the shop, which they used to have in the center, becomes a gathering place where friends and neighbors can run into each other on their way to activities like soccer games.
Traffic circulation is always an issue for the very busy center. White and Cody both said the crossing by Champagne Bakery is very dangerous for pedestrians as cars come to the top of the center from below.
Schreiber said they are conducting a traffic study on how best to fix the congestion, but noted that it is always good news to a center manager to hear that the parking lot is busy.