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Ikea Eyes West Valley, but Other Stores Come First

Ikea Eyes West Valley, but Other Stores Come First Real Estate by Shelly Garcia Reports surfaced in recent weeks that officials of the Swedish retailer Ikea were shopping the West San Fernando Valley and, in particular, Woodland Hills, for a possible store location. While Ikea may be interested in expanding into the West San Fernando Valley sometime in the future, for now the company is just window shopping, officials said. “Our focus right now is on repositioning some of the stores we have to better cover the market and be better representative of the Ikea store,” said Pat Merwin, real estate representative for Ikea properties in the Southwestern U.S. Ikea currently operates four stores in greater Los Angeles Tustin, City of Industry, Carson and Burbank. But two of them, Tustin and City of Industry, were acquired when the retailer took over the stores of now-defunct Stor. And none of the L.A. area stores are large enough to accommodate Ikea’s full line of merchandise. Before expanding further, Ikea’s first order of business is to remodel two of its L.A. units so that they conform to its store prototype. To do that, Ikea is relocating the Tustin store to Costa Mesa and moving its City of Industry store to Covina. The relocation will allow Ikea to double the size of the stores, from about 140,0000 square feet to 300,000 square feet. Once the relocation and remodeling is completed (a facelift is currently underway in Burbank as well) next spring, Merwin said, officials will be better able to gauge their market penetration and determine whether and where other stores might prosper. “Once they’re open for a while, I think we’ll have a better idea of where our areas of expansion should be,” Merwin said. The privately held company operates 165 stores worldwide and 15 in the U.S. Its expansion has proceeded at a snail’s pace compared to publicly held U.S. retailers such as Kohls or Target, but Ikea has recently become more aggressive. “In the next 10 years, we have a goal to open five stores a year nationwide,” Merwin said. “For us, it will be the greatest number of store openings since we’ve come to the U.S.” “With that expansion continuing, we’re starting to look and be ready,” she added. “Woodland Hills is certainly an area that we can imagine a potential store in the future.” Road Kill Just months after voters nixed a proposal to build a Home Depot in Agoura Hills, city officials have put the kibosh on plans to expand Roadside Lumber & Hardware, which has operated in the area for 27 years. In June, Roadside Lumber paid $1.3 million to acquire Agoura’s old 7,500-square-foot library building. The building is next to the current Roadside Lumber site, and owner and president Mike Tuchman says the expansion could have solved several problems he’s been grappling with. Roadside, the only lumberyard supplying professional contractors in the Conejo Valley, has grown in direct proportion to home construction in the area. The expansion would have given the lumberyard more storage space as well as more parking. Tuchman says that after considerable encouragement from city planners, the Agoura Hills City Council turned down his proposal. “We were told we were a blight on the community,” Tuchman said flatly. Agoura Hills officials agree that they didn’t like the proposal. However, they point out that Roadside falls into a category known as a legal non-conforming use. Because the company predates the incorporation of the city, it is allowed to remain as it is even though the city has since adopted rules against lumberyards. “The code does not allow non-conforming uses to expand or make improvements, and he wants to do both,” said Mike Kamino, the city’s director of planning of Tuchman’s proposal. The decision is not without irony. The proposal seeks to eliminate two of the things that make Roadside Lumber a blight in the eyes of city officials. It would create enough parking so that trucks could pull into the site without blocking the roadway, and it calls for a redesign of the fa & #231;ade of the facility to conform to the design style the city has adopted. “They don’t want us to change,” Tuchman said. “They’re happy with the blighted Roadside Lumber facility.” The irony doesn’t end there. Tuchman is one of several local business owners who led the charge against Home Depot, resulting in the passage of a measure that now limits retail stores in Agoura Hills to less than 60,000 square feet. Tuchman says his opposition to Home Depot was not about size, but rather traffic and congestion, which he believes would have escalated to disastrous proportions if Home Depot were built. Regardless, he now has more in common with the developer who proposed Home Depot than we’re guessing he’d care to admit. It takes a great deal of time and money to prepare the plans needed to take a project before the city council. For Roadside as well as Home Depot developer Selleck Development Group, it’s all water under the Kanan Street bridge now. Change for Ray-Art? Is Canoga Park about to lose its little corner of Hollywood? Irvine-based Archstone Communities has filed an application with the city planning department to build 522 apartments on an 11-acre site that has been home to Ray-Art Studios, the sound stage where Fox’s “Charmed” is filmed. Robert Papazian, who, along with his production partner, James Hirsch, owns the facility, would say only that, “We’ve had some preliminary talks.” He added, “I think the real estate market is interesting.” Others say Papazian and Hirsch want to focus on their entertainment company, which has produced the television series “Nash Bridges” among other projects. Archstone Communities officials did not return phone calls. But the company filed plans for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments on the property. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 676-1750, ext. 14 or by e-mail at sgarcia@sfvbj.com.

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