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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023


By SHELLY GARCIA Staff Reporter First there was CityWalk. And coming soon will be Universal Studios’ latest attraction: CityFood. As part of a 90,000-square-foot expansion of its CityWalk complex, Universal will be creating a new food court near the Cineplex Odeon theaters. Lease discussions are underway, but Universal officials declined to identify any of the new restaurants just yet. “We will have a big story, and it will be pretty soon,” said Eliot Sekuler, director of public relations for Universal Studios Hollywood. Restaurateurs who have been in discussions with Universal about leasing space in the food court said they’ve been shown models of the area, a horseshoe-shaped plaza on a second level above CityWalk that will be reachable by escalator. One restaurant owner described the design as “futuristic, industrial.” The restaurants, which will include eateries serving pizza, burgers, Mexican and Asian food, will provide much-needed casual dining options for visitors to CityWalk, according to restaurant operators with knowledge of the talks. To fill its food court, CityWalk executives have been recruiting hand-picked restaurants. Among those they have held discussions with are TuTu Tango, Poquito Mas and Pit Fire Pizza Co., the sources said. Each unit will be only about 1,200 square feet, just enough for diners to enter and place their orders. But they will be situated around a plaza with seating for about 500. When it is fully completed, the 90,000-square-foot CityWalk expansion will also include retailing and entertainment establishments. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Irvine has been selected to build the expansion. The food court is expected to open by the end of next year. Although the 90,000-square-foot CityWalk expansion has received the necessary approvals, resident groups are threatening to raise new objections to Universal Studios’ $1 billion master plan, which is still going through the approval process. Under a deal brokered by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and L.A. City Councilman John Ferraro last year, Universal agreed to downsize its master plan by 40 percent, eliminating a proposed theme park and some hotel rooms. But residents say they believed the 90,000 square feet being added to CityWalk was part of a 250,000-square-foot expansion of the mall being proposed by Universal Studios not an addition to it. Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Association, said his group will approach government leaders and demand that the Universal Studio expansion be reduced by 90,000 square feet to compensate for the discrepancy. The CityFood project is separate from the larger expansion planned by Universal Studios, which calls for an overall 3 million square feet of additional space for new production, hotel and office space. A draft of the final environmental impact report and a revised specific plan for the larger project are scheduled to be presented to the Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission in October. CityWalk, which is currently fully leased, has 15 restaurants, but only two, Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom and Cafe Puccino, offer quick-service dining. Other restaurants on the strip, including Gladstone’s and the Wolfgang Puck Cafe, offer table service, and there is often a wait for tables. But there is a strong market for quick-service food, particularly near the movie theater complex, and without the expansion, the available space at CityWalk is booked. Currently, interested lessees get a recorded message advising them that there is no space available and those who want further information are invited to submit requests in writing only, “due to the volume of inquiries,” the recorded message says.

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