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San Fernando
Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023


CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter Talk to city officials in Calabasas and they’re quick to admit that the community has suffered from an identity crisis, of sorts: that of having no identity. The affluent community of 27,000 has never had a real civic center, where people could gather to shop, eat dinner or take in a movie. Even City Hall, a community’s symbol of civic pride, is a nondescript building in one of the city’s two office parks. All that would change under plans to develop a 67-acre retail and office complex featuring a new city hall and public library. The project is being built on a parcel bordered by Calabasas Road, Park Granada Boulevard and Parkway Calabasas, just to the west of the community’s historic old town area. “This gives us an opportunity to create our own civic center in conjunction with our (historic) old town,” said City Manager Charles Cate. “It will become the community focal point, and a gathering spot. “This creates a there. We had no there.” In all, the Calabasas Park Centre project will have 763,400 square feet of developable space, 500,000 square feet of office space ( including the new city hall and library) and 200,000 square feet of retail space . A new 140-room, 63,400-square-foot Homestead Village hotel is also planned and would cater mostly to business executives. The hotel is in the planning process and construction is expected to begin within three to six months, said Mark Persico, the planning and building services director. The retail portion of the project, called the Commons at Calabasas, consists of a $37 million shopping center that is under construction and scheduled for completion in early November. It was modeled after a European-style village and will feature fountains and pedestrian walkways that take customers to the upscale shops. “This project adds a whole new line of retailers the city didn’t have before as well as providing a whole new entertainment concept,” said Persico. The project is already 99 percent leased and will feature an upscale Ralphs supermarket, a Barnes & Noble bookstore, a Rite-Aid drug store, high-end clothing stores, several restaurants and a six-screen Edward’s theater, said developer Rick Caruso, president of Caruso Affiliated Holdings. “We believe this center will draw (customers) all the way from the (Golden State) 405 (Freeway) in Sherman Oaks on the east to Westlake Village on the west,” he said. Other retailers include NKL Apparel, Polacheck Jewelry, Imaginarium, a Mi Piace restaurant and a Marmalade Caf & #233;. Caruso, whose company also developed the Promenade at Westlake Village, attributes the success in finding tenants to the community’s appeal to retailers. “Once we get people to the table, we show them the demographics. Calabasas has very high income levels, about $125,000 per household,” he said. “People are also highly educated, meaning they have great potential for continuing to make and spend money.” Also, Calabasas doesn’t have enough retail stores for its affluent residents, who often drive to Woodland Hills to shop or see a movie, Caruso said. Originally, the site was proposed in the late 1980s to be a 10-building commercial complex, but the idea never went anywhere. The land was sold to the Ahmanson Commercial Development Co. in 1989, and the firm promptly won approval to build a 1.5 million-square-foot office project. But faced with declining demand for office space, the developer submitted a request to greatly expand the project’s retail space and add a 1,700-seat multiplex theater. Despite an outcry from the community over the size of the 1 million-plus-square-foot project, the Calabasas City Council in 1994 gave Ahmanson and partner Kilroy Calabasas Associates permission to build the project. A group calling itself Save Our City launched a referendum drive to halt the development, but residents dropped the effort after the developers held a series of community meetings and ultimately agreed to downsize the project to 760,000 square feet. Ahmanson ultimately sold its interests to Kilroy, which in turn sold the 21-acre retail portion to Caruso. Kilroy hopes to begin building the office portion of the project by next year, said Persico. Officials with Kilroy did not return phone calls. Mayor James Bozajian attributed the community’s change of heart to the downsizing, which resulted in the elimination of an apartment complex as well as a reduction in projected traffic. “You’re looking at something that has gone through tremendous evolution,” he said. “There has been a lot of public input. Some people have been very diligent in following this through.” The city is in negotiations with Kilroy to purchase enough land for a 21,000-square-foot city hall with an adjoining 15,000-square-foot public library. After the negotiations are complete, the city expects to contract with an architect and solicit comments from the public on the new civic center’s design. “We hope to be in construction within two years,” Cate said. Cate and Persico see the new civic center providing a link between the new center and Calabasas’ historic old town, which is within walking distance on the eastern edge of the project. The city recently undertook a $2 million overhaul of the old town area, putting in cobblestone walkways and generally sprucing up the area. “We do think we’ll have some synergy between the old town and the new civic center,” Cate said. “They’ll be connected by a walkway, and there’s even been talk of maybe putting a horse-drawn carriage in service.”

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