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MEGA-MALL SOUTHLAND'S LARGEST CENTER SLATED FOR VALLEY OUTDOOR RETAIL AREA TO BE LINK.

Byline: JULIA M. SCOTT

Staff Writer

The San Fernando Valley will soon boast one of Southern California's biggest shopping centers with construction of a $750 million outdoor retail complex connecting the Topanga and Promenade malls, The Westfield Group said Tuesday.

The Village in Warner Center will include a 300-room, four-star hotel, 150 condominiums and apartments, offices, and 550,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

At 3.8 million square feet, the three-mall behemoth -- including its hotel and residences -- will be larger than South Coast Plaza in Orange County and Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance.

"It will create a heart for this whole district," said Ken Wong, president of Australia-based Westfield's operations in the United States.

Construction is expected to start in two years. When finished, The Village could draw 10 million visitors a year -- in addition to the 15 million who visit Topanga each year and the 9 million who stop by the Promenade.

The project is the latest for Westfield, which recently spent $500 million to upgrade its Topanga mall with everything from a new wing and upscale stores to a parking garage.

Its new project also will include 4,100 parking spaces above and below ground, but how Westfield will connect the three malls -- by trolley, tram, bridge or tunnel -- has not been decided.

Officials are weighing how to deal with the extra drivers the development will draw, but Wong said it's too early to say how traffic patterns might need to be changed.

Westfield filed an environmental assessment Tuesday with Los Angeles city officials, a precursor to an environmental impact report.

The project has broad support, however, from key local leaders.

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, whose district includes the development, said any concerns about traffic and not infringing on community space will be smoothed out.

"All those issues we will resolve," Zine said. "It will work for the benefit of the west San Fernando Valley."

A representative from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office said the mayor also supports the plan.

Wong said Westfield officials already have met with many community organizers and said the public will have numerous opportunities to comment on the project.

Shirley Blessing, a longtime Woodland Hills resident and member of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, said she heard details of the plans last week.

Blessing said she would be comfortable with the project as long as lots of trees are provided for shade and Westfield addresses the issue of how to connect its three centers.

"They will develop and, I hope with community input, it will be something the community will be very proud of," said Blessing, who said she would like to see a walkway that would allow shoppers to park their cars once and not use them again until they are ready to leave.

August Steurer, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Los Angeles City Council, said he thinks Westfield is "headed fairly in the right direction. They have been responsive to suggestions and concerns."

But Steurer cautioned that big-box stores like those at Topanga could attract regional traffic that will be a strain.

Retailers for The Village have not been announced, but Wong said there will be no department stores. He said tenants will include restaurants and national chains that don't depend on department stores for consumer traffic.

The Village could become a central district similar to a community Main Street, said Bob Scott, a planning expert with the Civic Center Group.

"People can spend the day there, not just stop in to buy a few things," Scott said. "The endlessness of the mega-mall begins to make it more of an adventure."

Officials believe the new mall will create 2,500 temporary construction jobs and 7,500 permanent jobs, plus $6 million in sales tax revenue.

Westfield chose an outdoor design -- despite the Valley's scorching summer temperatures -- to try to create an experience different from the adjoining enclosed malls.

The development will spare about half of the city block, including the 21st Century building, which Westfield does not own.

But managers of at least one restaurant slated to be demolished said Tuesday that they have long-term leases.

"Ownership reassures us we have seven years left on our lease," said Marie Leighton, who has been the manager of Yankee Doodles for 18 months.

At Stuart Anderson's Black Angus, manager Andy Wojciechowski said the owners are "talking about moving" with Westfield.

The Mandarin Wok and Financial Partners Credit Union have already closed.

julia.scott(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3735

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box, 2 maps

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) The Village

Conceptual drawings, below, show Westfield's plans for "The Village," left, a $750 million outdoor mall that will link the Topanga and Promenade shopping centers in the west San Fernando Valley. A 300-room hotel, condos, offices and retail spaces are planned.

SOURCE: All images are conceptual designs provided by Westfield

Box:

A Southland behemoth

Map:

(1 -- 2) The Village

Gregg Miller/Staff Artist
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 18, 2007
Words:828
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