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RETAIL—Project Aiming to Take Advantage of Popular Outlet Mall

Hoping to piggyback on the success of its neighbor, Vestar Development Co. has begun a shopping center next to the Camarillo Premium Outlet. In recent weeks, Vestar opened escrow on a 45-acre parcel with plans to construct a 400,000-square-foot retail, entertainment and hotel complex on the property. “All these people drive up from Malibu and the Valley and turn around and go home because there’s nothing else to do (except shop),” said Jeff Axtell, director of development for Vestar. “So it’s a natural extension to do a lifestyle mall that creates a destination hub for the whole area. We can leverage on the success of what’s there.” Since it was built in the mid-1990s, Camarillo Premium Outlet has grown to a 120-store mall that attracts over 11 million visitors annually. So far this year, the mall has registered a 13-percent increase in traffic, said Michele Rothstein, a spokeswoman for the mall’s owner, Chelsea GCA Realty Inc. Unlike many other outlet malls, which typically feature outlet operations for mass market brands, Chelsea’s malls include a large representation of tony designer labels. The Camarillo outlet, for example, includes such stores as Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole, Bose and Laundry by Shelli Segal. The combination of designer labels and discounted prices has built Camarillo into a highly successful mall attracting shoppers from throughout Southern California and internationally. Chelsea reports only its portfolio-wide sales per square foot average, which is $370 per square foot, but Axtell said the Camarillo mall generates about $400 per square foot, at the high end of the industry average for shopping malls. What the mall lacks, however, are the dining and entertainment options available at many upscale shopping centers, and that’s where Vestar sees its opportunity. The company hopes to build about 50,000 square feet of sit-down restaurants and other outposts offering music and other forms of entertainment, along with an assortment of specialty and chain stores carrying apparel, home furnishings, books and sporting goods. “The whole point being that (customers have) driven two hours to get there, (we want to) give them additional reasons to stay longer,” Axtell said. In addition, Vestar is planning a hotel for business travelers, who have been coming to the city in greater numbers as the area’s high-tech (and other) business has increased. “The city is telling us that there’s a big demand for more (hotels),” Axtell said. The parcel, at Las Posas Avenue and Ventura Boulevard, was sold by Prime Retail Inc., which at one time entertained plans to develop the site into a second factory outlet center. The company decided to sell as part of an overall strategy to divest some of its properties. Vestar, a shopping center developer that recently completed the Glendale Fashion Center, declined to disclose the purchase price. Company officials said it is just beginning its work on the development. “We just started our due diligence, and it will probably take several months before we get the construction contracts,” Axtell said. The company expects the center to open in the spring of 2002.

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