The article stops short of a full-fledged definition of these branded cities, which are a type of retail development. Here is the paragraph that most closely sums them up.
It’s easy to see why branded cities—places where people either work, live or play—are catching on. They are self-contained urban centers where signs aren’t just viewed for a few seconds from a car window—or maybe a few minutes, if someone is on foot. The interactive element provides an added attraction: “If you create an environment where people engage in media, it changes the dynamic,” says Adam Bleibtreu, CEO of The Retail Media Company, which is responsible for the design and advertising strategy of El Portál. “If you give people the opportunity to effect their environment, they talk about it; they come there more frequently; they stay longer.”
So, essentially, they're outdoor plazas with mixed uses that incorporate large screens and signage for public media opportunities. For example, people could descend on the space for a game tournament, or to watch a large television event like the Superbowl, all while being able to stroll through an urban shopping center of sorts.
The article mentions Victory Plaza in Dallas, a mixed-use "branded city" development that is adjacent to American Airlines Center (where the Stars and Mavericks play).
Says the article of Victory Plaza's programming:
Special pre-game and postgame concerts and parties in the plaza draw traffic from the arena, typically ranging from 20,000 to 35,000 people, according to Clark Dunklin, a partner in the out-of-home agency Big Media, which sells ad avails for the complex.
For more information on Victory Park in Dallas, see their website.
While I recently spoke on this blog about avoiding forced "branding" of new urban development, such a concept might seem possible for the portion of Ballpark Village immediately adjacent to the stadium. Surely, of course, these areas are likely to be noticeably empty without an event, but good planning could ensure that the retail uses at street level mandate a wider use of the space than just large scale events.
Above all, I do not want Ballpark Village to turn into a rushed development that crams boxy office towers into a small space on an artificial time frame. This will only prove detrimental to the idea of developing this important piece of downtown real estate into a valuable contributor to a revitalized and connected cityscape.