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Friday, Feb 3, 2023
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Future King of All Valley Venues?

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER Staff Reporter Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield announced Feb. 21 that an amended version of its massive $1.5 billion Promenade 2035 mixed-use project had been submitted to the Los Angeles Planning Commission for review this month. The question remains if the stadium portion of the plan on the northeast corner of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Oxnard Street would be designed to accommodate concerts and cultural events or function better for sporting events. That would depend on whether it becomes an indoor 10,000-seat venue or a 7,500-seat outdoor theater. The revised plan — which includes a voluntary inclusion of affordable housing units and reconfigured parking — also lays out both options regarding the stadium component. Originally, Westfield envisioned a 15,000 seat sports and entertainment center, which was soon after modified to 7,500 seats. Now, Westfield has requested the approvals to build either a 10,000-seat enclosed arena or a 7,500-seat open-air design, to host such activities as minor league sports. This modification represents yet another attempt by Westfield to get the project right with the neighborhood, taking the collective wishes of local residents into account. As Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Executive Vice President of Development Larry Green said in the statement, “Having spent many months meeting with residents and listening to their concerns, we are pleased to submit revised plans which reflect community input on this vision for the Promenade property, while keeping within the goals of the Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan.” Also, Westfield is proposing to reduce the stadium’s square footage by more than 40 percent, from 320,000 to 181,550 square feet, which will increase green space. The structure will also see a 45 percent height reduction from 155 to 85 feet. In addition, there may be further alterations ahead once Westfield finalizes its choice of a venue operator. Westfield revealed its new plans in a joint statement with City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who has led the charge on the Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan, which seeks to create an urban hub with a downtown vibe in Woodland Hills. Kavli still tops For now, the proposed stadium seems far away, and in 2020, the No. 1 name on the Business Journal’s list of Performing Arts Venues on page 22 remains the 1,800-seat Fred Kavli Theatre at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza – an existing campus which, like Westfield’s Promenade property, is going through a major redevelopment of its own — and, at No. 2 , the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts at California State University – Northridge, known as “The Soraya,” which seats 1,682 attendees. Last year, Thousand Oaks City Council approved a $1.4 million contract to create the Civic Arts Plaza Campus Master Plan, which it will complete this year. The Council also approved a contract with Pasadena-based engineering firm Aecom — best known for governmental and industrial projects — to overhaul the plaza, considered the cultural centerpiece of Thousand Oaks at 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. The upgrade comes in conjunction with the plaza’s 25th anniversary. According to Community Development Director Mark Towne, the city has $6.1 million set aside in general fund reserves for construction costs of improvements to the civic campus, which is also home to the 394-seat Janet and Ray Scherr Forum Theatre (No. 13 on the list, as well as the city hall, 97,000 square feet of office space used by the city and five levels of parking. The Council also decided to incorporate a block that includes a 1959-built Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure — once home to the city’s first Taco Bell in 1970 — into the Civic Arts Plaza redevelopment. At a Feb. 21 economic forecast breakfast held at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks Mayor Al Adam told the aduience that new additions to the civic plaza will include a town square and a long-overdue grand staircase leading from the property down to the street. “We’re going to redesign City Hall to make it more customer-friendly,” Adam said. The Civic Arts Plaza campus has seen no shortage of eclectic fare. In recent years, the Kavli’s stage has attracted such varied acts as Mel Brooks, Rita Rudner and Chicago, while, until recently, that former Taco Bell housed the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks. Two years ago the museum moved into a 6,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Macerich-owned indoor retail center The Oaks. Popular acts Last year, Soraya Executive Director Thor Steingraber told the Business Journal that the Soraya filled a marketplace void. “There was no real venue for performing arts in the Valley,” Steingraber said. With the 2020-21 season underway, The Soraya’s diverse programming of global performing arts acts includes Melissa Aldana’s “Visions for Frida Kahlo” in March; The Jerusalem Quartet in April; and “Randy Newman’s Faust: The Concert” in May. Ranking No. 3 on the list is the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, a 1,413-seat all-purpose facility that regularly holds concerts and screenings. Occupying No. 4 and 5 are a pair of clubs owned by Sterling Venue Ventures — the 1,000-seater The Canyon in Agoura Hills, which debuted in 2001 and serves fans of rap and rock; and counterpart The Canyon Santa Clarita, at Westfield Valencia, which opened in 2017 and also seats 1,000 attendees. Such acts as War, Jefferson Starship, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Aaron Neville, Berlin, T.S.O.L. and Too Short have either recently played or will appear at both Canyon clubs, which also regularly host tribute bands devoted to groups such as The Eagles, Van Halen and The Doors.

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