85.7 F
San Fernando
Thursday, Nov 30, 2023


northridge/w/art/20 inches/1stjc/mark2nd By JULIE SABLE Staff Reporter Still struggling to rebound more than three years after the Jan. 17, 1994 earthquake, officials at the Northridge Fashion Center are hoping that a new 10-screen multiplex cinema will bring more shoppers to the northwest Valley’s biggest mall. Mall officials acknowledge that sales and mall traffic are still below 1993 levels, although they will not disclose actual sales revenues. “Traffic isn’t quite as good and sales per square foot are a little below the 1993 numbers,” said Fashion Center general manager Lloyd Miller. “I wouldn’t say that we are progressing at a snail’s pace, but it’s never fast enough.” Part of the reason may be that the mall, owned by Dallas-based MEPC American Companies, does not have a multiplex cinema. Theaters, and not department stores, are now considered the most important anchors for retail malls. “Nationwide, there is a trend toward shopping centers becoming overall entertainment venues, Miller said. “I think people overall do not have a lot time these days,” he added, “and we all are looking for time to enjoy ourselves and get some errands done at the same time. Now we’re seeing a trend back to the old shopping center adage of one-stop shopping.” Until the 1994 quake, the mall had a three-screen multiplex operated by General Cinemas Theaters of California. The mall was reopened in August 1995, but without theaters. Miller said the mall owners and General Cinema could not reach agreement on the size and scope of the replacement theaters. This spring, mall officials reached agreement with Pacific Theaters Corp. to develop a 10-screen, 2,800-seat movie cinema. Miller said Pacific Theaters will begin construction of the theater later this summer with a targeted opening date of spring, 1998. The theater will go into the three-story Robinsons-May Home Store on the north end of the center, which is slated to be closed this month and consolidated with the Robinsons-May apparel store on the south end of the center. A bookstore and three or four theme restaurants will also be added to the area around the theater, Miller said. In addition to Robinsons-May, the Fashion Center is anchored by a Sears, a Macys and a J.C. Penney. There are 150 specialty stores, and the mall has an occupancy rate of 85 percent not counting the vacant Broadway Department Store, which will be part of the new entertainment area. Mall owners used the quake rebuilding process to update the facility, which opened in the early 1970s. “The center looks completely different now from before the quake,” said Annette Bethers, the center’s marketing director. Skylights, colorful signage, black wire mesh benches and palm trees all help to brighten the center which had the dark, solid look that was typical of malls built in the early 1970s, she said. A 6,000-square-foot food court was added on the mall’s second level, another development that was part of the remodeling plans but suddenly became a necessity as the owners of the mall scrambled to reopen. There are two parking structures with 7,600 spaces but mall officials would like to see those parking structures full on a more frequent basis. “The traffic count averages between 800,000 and 900,000 shoppers each month,” Bethers said. That is below pre-quake levels, but actual counts were not taken before the quake. One reason shoppers may not have come back is because they have developed loyalties to other area shopping centers, such as The Promenade in Woodland Hills or Topanga Plaza in Canoga Park, said Nancy Williams, a vice president at Grubb & Ellis Co. in Sherman Oaks. “When the mall went down, shopping patterns changed slightly for the immediate trade area so some of the existing sales leaked over to other retail areas that have more activity and vibrancy like Woodland Hills,” Williams said. “Centers today are calling for a mix, a combination of entertainment and retail,” Williams said. Without this component added to the Fashion Center, Williams said the mall risks remaining “old-fashioned.” But if the mall has had its share of struggles, it nonetheless has loyal customers who are happy to see it back in business. “It’s much nicer here than anywhere else,” said Marcus Cisneros of Pacoima, who was shopping at the men’s store Structure last week. Cisneros shopped at the Panorama and Topanga malls when the Fashion Center was closed, but said they don’t compare aesthetically. “I like to sit on the benches and listen to the water fountains,” he said. “Even though you’re in a mall, it’s just very comfortable.”

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Related Articles