By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 02, 2006 at 2:41 PM Photography: Julie Lawrence
After much anticipation, the new Bayshore Town Center officially opened to the public on Thursday -- well, most of it anyway. Although the signage for places like Trader Joe's, Alterra, California Pizza Kitchen and Forever XXI is up, these stores, among a few others, are still "coming soon." And, unfortunately, the mighty Apple Store was nowhere to be seen just yet, either. A trip to the Apple Store usually means hardware or iPod issues, so having a location closer than Highway 100 & North Avenue will be wonderful.

The rest of the shopping Mecca, however, was alive with activity, people and music and a early afternoon trip to the new mall -- which is not so much a traditional mall as it is its own little faux village, with rows of homes replaced by plentiful retail and dining options -- was a pleasant experience.

First impressions? It's cute, and didn't feel nearly as hectic and crowded as a day at Mayfair. What we found to be most charming were the series of quaintly named streets channeling through the shops: Town Center Way, Bayshore Drive, Fountainview Drive (likely garnering its name from the fact that it leads you directly to the center of the "Town Square" where a large fountain sits in a grassy park.)

It was enjoyable to walk outside along what felt like "real" city streets, yet relieving to discover that you are still able to navigate the bulk of the mall from indoors (which is nice for especially blustery days such as today.)

Horse-drawn carriages galloped their way past pedestrians who were busy weaving in and out of stores, stopping for lunch -- the Chocolate Factory, to no one's surprise, was already a zoo -- and grabbing cups of coffee, of which the options are plentiful (Alterra, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee). Curiously, none of the streets is pedestrian-only.

Inside the mall itself, Bayshore veterans will recognize bits of the old place. From about the middle, north to Sears, it appears that not much has changed. But south toward Boston Store, the place feels much different.

With new restaurants such as Bravo! and Devon Seafood Grill boasting spacious outdoor dining areas (equipped with heat lamps for the months when it's less than hot) offering a view of the Town Square gardens, Bayshore Town Center looks as though it's going to be a great holiday shopping source but even better as a summer spot for social gathering and fun.

We were a little disappointed to see that the H&M isn't stocking children's clothes, like at locations in other cities. But at least the Bayshore location has men's clothes, which is an improvement on the first area shop, opened a couple years ago in Brookfield Square.

Sadly, this "city within a city town center concept" is what the original Pabst City could have been for Milwaukee.  But, we've moved on and love the idea that city dwellers now can drive the Lakefront to get to an outdoor, mall-type experience.  Think Chicagoland's Old Orchard or Oakbrook for a comparison.

Parking always concerns.  On opening day, at least, it was a breeze.  Digital signs told us exact parking spot availability, uniformed staff directed and there was plenty of street parking.  Compared to Mayfair that is, at times, harder to park than Chicago.

A quick comment about the old portions of the mall.  Creepy.  Maybe there's still work to be done inside the mall, but it's so drastically different that it's almost unappealing to shop there.  The food court area now seems outdated, not needed and just out of place.  Its only saving grace is its Alterrra kiosk.