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IT TAKES A MALL TO BUILD A CITY; CALABASAS CITY OFFICIALS TEAM WITH DEVELOPERS TO CREATE A CIVIC CENTERPIECE WITH ITALIAN-ACCENTED FLOURISHES TO GIVE RESIDENTS MORE COMMON GROUND, REVIVE OLD TOWN.

Byline: Enrique Rivero Daily News Staff Writer

Santa Monica developer Rick Caruso has built shopping centers around the Southland that have brought sales tax dollars and prestige to each neighborhood.

Now he's going to find out if he can build a city.

Later this week, Caruso will open his latest shopping center, The Commons at Calabasas, in the city's 67-acre Park Centre. And The Commons, Calabasas officials said, could well be the cornerstone for a city center that the sprawling west Los Angeles County community has never had.

Shortly after the City Council approved a master plan for The Commons in October 1997, Calabasas City Manager Charles Cate called it ``a good springboard'' for the rest of the Park Centre project to move forward.

Now, more than a year later, he hasn't changed his mind.

``You can say this is going to be the engine that drives the remaining development of the property,'' Cate said. ``It's clearly the cornerstone for development of the remainder of the property.''

Mayor James Bozajian agrees, though he emphasizes that the development won't happen overnight. But when it's done, the Park Centre's shopping center, hotel, offices and civic center will comprise the integrated mini-downtown Calabasas has never really had.

Not even the city's charming Old Town area can fill that role, Bozajian said.

``We don't really have a larger center where citizens can go and shop, enjoy entertainment and eat. Everything is sort of spread out,'' Bozajian said. ``We wanted to have a center that would be a larger, more attractive center for people who live in Calabasas to enjoy.''

Caruso himself said that Caruso Affiliated Holdings Inc.'s 22-acre, 200,000-square-foot The Commons is intended to meet upper-middle class families' complete shopping and entertainment needs.

And with its lakes, fountains, sculptures and outdoor seating, the Commons - which was designed to resemble a Tuscan village - is meant as more than just a shopping center.

``We want you to spend your afternoon here; we want you to spend your evening here,'' Caruso said. ``We want you to come here for no other reason than just to hang out.''

The center is expected to generate $400,000 to $450,000 in sales tax revenues for the city each year, Cate said.

City officials think that The Commons could benefit Calabasas in other ways; for example, by helping to revitalize the Old Town.

After The Commons opens, the city will run an old-fashioned trolley between the center and Old Town on weekends to encourage interaction between the two, Cate said. The trolley will run for three months on a trial basis.

``There'll be residual effects because of all the people who will be coming there who didn't know what was in the Old Town,'' Cate said. ``We think that will help provide an economic boost to Old Town Calabasas.''

Over the years, several projects were proposed for the Park Centre site that, for various reasons, didn't materialize. About nine years ago - before the city's April 5, 1991, incorporation - Los Angeles County had approved an approximately 1.5-million-square-foot office project that included some retail.

That plan, however, met with considerable opposition from area residents who objected to its density.

It has since evolved to where it is now - a 750,000-square-foot mixed center with retail, a hotel, office space and a civic center that will include a City Hall and library.

The whole Park Centre project is intended to create a sense of place for the city, Cate said.

``It's creating a mini-downtown area, if you will, that in effect is becoming the downtown of Calabasas,'' Cate said. ``We really don't have a downtown other than the Old Town.''

The Commons is the first project to be built at the Park Centre, but others are online. So far, Atlanta-based Homestead Village Inc. has been granted city entitlements to build a 150-room hotel on a parcel it owns in the Park Centre. El Segundo-based Kilroy Realty Corp. is expected to receive its entitlements for an office project later this year, Cate said.

The entire site had been owned by Kilroy, which sold it off to Caruso and Homestead, but retained ownership of a parcel for its own project, according to Cate.

As for the proposed civic center, the city expects to complete a final purchase and sale agreement for up to 4-1/2 acres by the end of the year, Cate said.

The hotel proposal is seen as a clear sign it's not just city officials who view Park Centre as a potential city center. Homestead owns a parcel in the Park Centre, but plans are not yet set on when a hotel will open, company spokeswoman Charlotte Wood said.

The national chain, she said, caters to business travelers on extended stays and typically locates its hotels in close proximity to retail, restaurants and area services that the guests would need.

``We do take that into consideration as far as site livability and we typically build in areas of high business concentration,'' Wood said.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos, Map

Photo: (1--2--Color) Developer Rick Caruso is the mastermind behind The Commons at Calabasas, below, a shopping center envisioned as the city's centerpiece.

Gus Ruelas/Daily News

Map: Calabasas

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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 8, 1998
Words:869
Previous Article:ACROSS THE BOARD.
Next Article:COMMONS CENTER GOES FOR THE UPSCALE.


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