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Monday, Sep 25, 2023

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CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter The Northridge Fashion Center came out on top in a ranking of regional malls based on square footage, but Westfield America Inc., which operates the Topanga Plaza and acquired The Promenade at Woodland Hills, is the largest mall owner. With its purchase of The Promenade, Brentwood-based Westfield America now controls 1.69 million square feet of space at its two malls in the Valley. No other local shopping center owner holds more than one property. Burbank’s Media City Center, owned by Alexander Haagen Properties, has 1.5 million square feet of space, making it the No. 2 mall in the Valley. It’s followed by the Glendale Galleria with 1.4 million square feet, and the Fallbrook Mall with 1.2 million square feet. The ranking shows that the greater San Fernando Valley area has 10.4 million square feet of mall space, creating intense competition for customers, retailers agreed. Poom Chantha, general manager of Topanga Plaza, said that to survive in a market with that level of competition, it’s important to stay focused on the consumer. “We want to provide the best customer service, most selection and most convenience to the customer,” he said. “We think if they’re happy with their local mall, they’ll come back.” Many of the malls in the ranking would not disclose their vacancy rates. Of those that did report, the Fallbrook Mall in Canoga Park had the highest vacancy, with 240,000 square feet, or about 20 percent of its total space, going unused. Northridge Fashion Center, owned by General Growth Properties, had the second-highest vacancy, with 111,567 square feet, or about 7 percent, sitting empty. Valencia Town Center, owned by Valencia Town Center Associates, had the lowest rate of those reporting, with less than 1 percent of its 675,000 square feet vacant. Michael Schiff, a senior associated with Grubb & Ellis Co.’s retail properties division, said a major trend in shopping centers is the emergence of big entertainment venues to attract customers. The Promenade opened a 16-screen AMC movie complex last year. Media City Center in Burbank has 14 screens; Northridge Fashion Center, Fallbrook Mall, Antelope Valley Mall and Valencia Town Center each have 10 screens; and the Sherman Oaks Galleria has five screens. “It’s becoming much, much more important to provide some sort of entertainment,” Schiff said. “They’re seeing the future. The problem is the parking a movie theater takes up.” Schiff said the purchase of The Promenade by Westfield, a real estate investment trust, is indicative of a trend sweeping the retail real estate market. “All the huge properties are being gobbled up by the REITs,” he said. “REITs are to the ’90s what the Japanese were to the ’80s.” Westfield, a publicly traded company, owns 10 California malls, five in San Diego and five in Los Angeles County. Later this year, Westfield will add three more L.A. malls once its $1.44 billion acquisition of TrizecHahn’s portfolio is completed. Nationwide, Westfield owns 25 retail centers and will add 13 more from its acquisition of TrizecHahn. After the TrizecHahn deal closes, Westfield plans to spend $1 billion on improvements to its malls over the next five years. Chantha said it is unclear what improvements, if any, will be made to Topanga Plaza. Westfield America is closely tied to Westfield Holdings Ltd., an Australian company that has been in the mall business for the past 35 years. Westfield America went public in 1997, raising $300 million.

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