After walking from the outdoor, shoppable garden, Jennifer Salvaggio, of Wayne, shepherded her five-year-old twins, Henry and Viola, through the doors to the indoor space. "Oh, this looks pretty," Henry said, bursting through in his Superman t-shirt to play with the small indoor fountain with Viola.
The Salvaggio's were visiting Devon Yard, the six-acre lifestyle center Urban Outfitters, Inc. (URBN) has brought to the former Waterloo Garden location, after years of planning and revising, with its amis, Anthropologie, BHLDN and terrain brands.
"I know the town has really struggled to get it here on the map" Salvaggio, 45 and the principal at Somogy Custom Graphic Design, said. She used to frequent Waterloo and called it a community "linchpin." Standing in the indoor terrain, with its high beams and refine, rustic feeling, Salvaggio said she thinks the development will "be really wonderful for the community."
Urban, a Philadelphia-based company, has created an outdoor garden oasis at Devon Yard, with event space, apparel and eateries housed in and outside of five structures that incorporate local materials, such as stone and reclaimed barnwood, and have the feeling of a greenhouse or barn.
An engaged couple could visit and book the venue for their ceremony and reception, create a gift registry at Anthropologie, schedule a rehearsal dinner at amis or terrain cafe, use the floral and design services of the terrain garden, and the bride could find a wedding dress at BHLDN. There are 50 pre-booked weddings based on the renderings, said Brianna Alcorn, senior sales manager of Terrain events.
"We can really be a one-stop shop for a bride who wants an Anthropologie-terrain-esque wedding," Alcorn said. The finishes in the venue area are "taking that barn wedding and elevating it one more level up with those amenities." The space is intimate and charming for the customer who, as Alcorn described, "wants the barn wedding but wants the nice bathrooms and the nice finishes."
And with the venue, Alcorn said, "this can be a place that you can celebrate multiple milestones."
At the same time, it's a place for casual shopping and browsing, too, like the Salvaggio family did with their impromptu trip on the opening day Thursday. Whether having lunch with friends or family, picking out greenery for a home garden, furnishing an apartment or finding new apparel, people can stop by and spend a few hours on the grounds, Alcorn said.
Though some shoppers visiting Urban's brick and mortar stores may only think of apparel, the collaboration among the different brands to create one, immersive space at Devon Yard shows how Urban is dedicated to showcasing its portfolio as a lifestyle company.
"In the wake of everybody shopping on Amazon, online, Urban's new philosophy of retail is to open lifestyle centers such as this, because it brings people together. It makes their average shopping time here more than two hours because they can dine, they can meet up for coffee, and then they can entertain," said Alcorn. "We are showing people you don't have to do everything online. You can get out there, you can communicate, you can meet people. … Who isn't inspired when you walk into this area? You have to feel good."
When the project was first announced in 2013 it faced obstacles getting off the ground, including opposition within the Chester County community. Those against the project cited concerns, such as traffic and the then-proposed residential component, for reasons to avoid moving forward with the development. The issue became controversial among neighbors with lawn signs for or against the project seen throughout the town.
Marc Heppe, chairman of the board of supervisors for Easttown Township, said he does not think the "naysayers" from years ago could still be upset with how the project looks today. "Terrain is like Waterloo Gardens on steroids," he said. Heppe is hopeful Devon Yard could spur more creative retail to follow into the neighborhood.
The space appears carefully designed, with a combination of gravel and paved over outdoor space, metal and wood materials and natural lighting complimenting strings of exposed bulbs above the event, shopping and dining areas. But Greg Lehmkuhl, creative director for terrain, said he doesn't expect visitors to pick out all the small decisions made for the space, like the color of the pavement in specific places.
"The minute you open your car door, you should notice you're in a different place because of what color the curbs are and the plants," he explained.
He said terrain is designed to play into an aspirational feeling with high ceilings, exposed beams and natural light, all paired with copious plants, which naturally lend themselves to an uplifting feeling and are trendy right now.
"The plant side of it lends a spiritual side to shopping," he said. "You feel like you're alive when you're around plants. It uplifts the spirit."
Eli Kahn, the CEO of E Kahn Development Corp., the property owners, said the community will benefit from the unique mixed-use retail at the space, making it a destination spot for the region.
"I challenge any neighbor, anybody who objected to the project early on, if they don't want this thing now they're blind. It's an absolutely stunningly spectacular project and the community and the area should literally feel blessed they have a company like Urban that has pulled off this great project," Kahn said. "Waterloo Gardens was an outdoor plant nursery with furniture so that history has been carried forward in a more contemporary way with this project as well. Waterloo Gardens thrived here for 50 years and elements of it will thrive for another 100 years or so, so thats a pretty cool thing."