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Thursday, Dec 1, 2022
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A Mall Overhaul

The numbers sum it up: 1,400 apartments, 572 hotel rooms and a 15,000-seat stadium at a cost of $1.5 billion. That’s the scale of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s redevelopment of the nearly vacant Promenade mall in Woodland Hills. Last week, Larry Green, senior vice president of development at the company, presented an updated plan for what he dubbed the Promenade 2035 project. The blueprint aligns with the Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan, which City Councilman Bob Blumenfield conceived in 2013 to turn Warner Center into the “downtown of the San Fernando Valley.” Green made the presentation before a panel of city of Los Angeles officials and roughly 250 locals at the Hilton Woodland Hills. Promenade 2035 proposes to make the property at 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd. into mixed-use development addressing multiple fronts. It calls for a 34-acre mixed-use live/work/play community in the heart of Warner Center that will cater to millennium workforces and residents and provide locals with alternatives to driving. It envisions 1,400 residential units – from work/live studios to one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment and luxury villa floor plans. It also includes two hotels, one 272-room hospitality structure and another 300-key destination. In addition, it will add more than 244,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space to the market, plus more than 150,000 square feet of creative office space and a more than 470,000-square-foot traditional office tower scaling about 25 stories at the northwest corner of Oxnard Street and Owensmouth Avenue. The most unorthodox and controversial part of Promenade 2035 calls for a 15,000-seat stadium at the northeast corner of Topanga Canyon and Oxnard Street that will address the Valley’s lack of sports and entertainment venues. Between all of these elements, Green insisted, “we have the essence of a community.” Wide support Prior to the panel, Westfield officials spoke about the 8,200 full- and part-time jobs at the development that would generate $1.6 billion in total economic output and $12 million in net new annual revenues for the city’s general fund. During construction, the project will support about 12,500 full- and part-time jobs. The panel featured Charlie Rausch of Los Angeles’ Department of City Planning and included William Lamborn of the Deputy Advisory Agency; Melinda Gejer of Recreation and Parks; Georgic Avanesian, Engineering; Win Pham, Street Lighting; and Vicente Cordero and Armando Hurtado of the Department of Transportation. Rausch stressed that no verdict would be reached for a two-week period, to allow locals to submit their opinions on the project before the city reached its final decision. Yet even before the hearing, Westfield had shored up a reservoir of local support for its endeavor. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association, Valley Economic Alliance, Valley Cultural Center and West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce back the project. VICA President Stuart Waldman said in a statement that the advocacy group “strongly supports the construction of Westfield’s Promenade 2035 project, which will bring numerous benefits to the West San Fernando Valley, including much needed housing, thousands of jobs, open space and more retail, dining and entertainment options.” Valley Economic Alliance Chief Executive Kenn Phillips echoed this sentiment, adding that “with new options for living, working, shopping and entertainment in the area, people won’t have to trek great distances to find them, which greatly affects quality of life.” Valley Cultural Center Executive Director Nora Ross and Warner Center Chamber President Ann Carlton Bose also endorsed the project. Pros and cons At the public hearing, speakers largely echoed support for the advantages the Westfield expansion would bring. However, during the public comments segment, in which 70 people signed up to express their opinions, the two elements that sparked opposition were the stadium and what some considered a lack of affordable housing. Woodland Hills Homeowners Association’s John Walker commended the project overall, with an asterisk. “There are some components of the project that are actually good, but the stadium doesn’t belong here,” he said, suggesting that the venue needed to be revisited separately. “It’s basically vague and out of scale. We don’t know how big it will be.” L.A. City Councilman Blumenfeld told the Business Journal that he agreed with this point. “I continue to have serious concerns about the impact a stadium will have on our community,” Blumenfield said. “I think that the concept of having a concert venue or stadium in the downtown of the West Valley could be a wonderful addition. But right now, I have too many concerns to support this aspect of the proposal. “As we have seen with other venues around the city, including the Greek Theater and the Hollywood Bowl, traffic and parking issues can wreak havoc in surrounding communities.” Additionally, while much talk by Westfield addresses traffic circulation around the stadium, there was no mention on how such a stadium might impact traffic along the 101 freeway as attendees from outside the area approach the venue. Walker cited other pending projects in the area that will compound the congestion problem. “You can’t tell us that there will not be traffic impacts,” added Gina Thornburg, an academic interested in housing affordability. Thornburg said she is surprised that a “community benefits agreement” had not been worked out between area neighborhood councils and Westfield. “How we got this far without one is beyond me,” she said, also bringing up the project’s lack of affordable housing, which a representative of the Hospitality Union of California and Arizona doubled down on. “Over 1,400 units but not a single piece of affordable housing,” said the rep, feeling that Westfield is “violating the (city of L.A.’s) intent to create more affordable housing. Let’s be honest here, market rate housing is luxury housing.” Councilman Blumenfield agrees that there has been an oversight in this area. “Since the adoption of the (2035) plan, over 2,500 units have been greenlit and zero are affordable,” he said. “It is not uncommon to see three-bedroom apartments go for $3,600 or 500-square-foot studios cost over $1,700. The market is not working for the ‘missing middle’ and I want to make sure that people of all socio-economic backgrounds can call Warner Center home. “That is why I authored a motion to direct the Planning Department to develop ways to guarantee or require affordable housing in the Warner Center Specific Plan area.” Others at the hearing saw the stadium as a synergistic opportunity to boost their own agendas, such as Museum of San Fernando Valley Vice President Jackie Langa, who would like to see a historical and educational facility at the stadium “to attract people to this part of the Valley”; and David Honda, who would like to see the San Fernando Valley Fair staged at the venue. Valley Economic Alliance Chairman Randy Witt told the panel that the stadium “not only fulfills the (Warner Center 2035 plan’s) non-residential use but also creates jobs. We whole-heartedly recommend that you approve it.” Geographic context Green defended the Westfield plan, saying that it had the right formula to serve multiple audiences. “It’s about daily needs,” he told the Business Journal, describing the retail component, which will include such services as a grocery store, post office and dry cleaners. Not visible on the primary overview rendering of the project is an underlayer of subterranean and on-site spaces providing 18,000 square feet of parking, which will help alleviate any potential congestion caused by stadium attractions. “When people attend an event at the stadium, their ticket will come with an assigned parking space,” he said. If all goes to plan, Promenade 2035 construction will launch in 2022, to be rolled out in two-year intervals, with the stadium and the office tower phases to follow retail and hotel. As Promenade 2035 moves forward, other Warner Center projects will affect the neighborhood, including more than 10,000 residential units currently under construction around the Westfield properties by other developers. The biggest mystery remains just how Canadian mega-mall developer Triple Five Worldwide Group will utilize last year’s purchase of 47 acres of former Aerojet Rocketdyne property once environmental evaluations of the land are complete. “It’s synergistic,” Green said of what’s going on between Westfield’s Promenade 2035 and neighboring projects by other developers.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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