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Tuesday, Oct 4, 2022
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Porter Ranch Sold on Mall

As L.A.’s largest master-planned community, Porter Ranch just about has it all: good schools, large hillside homes, a country club, ample parks and recreation opportunities for families as well as spectacular views of the San Fernando Valley. But luxury dining and shopping have always been missing from the local scene, leaving a big hole in the affluent community. “In my family, we’re always thinking about where to go out for dinner,” said Sean O’Rourke, who works on the television show “Access Hollywood” and serves on the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council. “It’s really hard to get to Ventura Boulevard from here.” Now, however, the Beverly Hills developer that put the 1,300-acre community on the map is planning its last hurrah for Porter Ranch: a luxury shopping center. Shapell Liberty Investment Properties LLC, a joint venture between Shapell Properties and its longtime construction partner Liberty Building Co. of Beverly Hills, recently unveiled plans for the $60 million Village at Porter Ranch, a retail center at the northwest corner of Rinaldi Street and Porter Ranch Drive. “We have this long history of 40 years in Porter Ranch and we’re proud of it,” said John Love, vice president of Shapell’s commercial development division. “We consider this last commercial development a family and business legacy – and we’re committed to really putting our signature stamp on it.” Shapell expects to begin signing tenants for the new center this fall as it proceeds through the city planning process, with groundbreaking in about a year and completion in late 2017 or early 2018. Shifting focus The 35 acres of vacant land have been envisioned as a community centerpiece under Porter Ranch’s specific plan since 1990. But attempts to actually build it have fallen through more than once due to the recession and shifting priorities at Shapell Industries Inc., which began developing the master-planned community in the 1980s. The company was founded by Nathan Shapell, a Polish Jew who escaped two Nazi concentration camps, immigrated to California after World War II and went into the home-building business with his brother and brother in-law. Another L.A. builder, Liberty founder Irving Feintech, brought what was then the isolated Porter Ranch area to Shapell’s attention in the 1980s. “Nathan was out front on the project, but he always attributed his involvement to the Feintech family. They convinced him to invest in this community that was considered far-flung at the time,” Love said. The developers concentrated on residential construction in the area for decades. But plans emerged for a 2 million-square-foot retail center on the west side of Porter Ranch Road in 2005. At that time, however, Shapell considered itself primarily a homebuilder and “there was not a lot of effort or energy or traction developed around retail,” Love said. In the years after the recession, funding for new construction and demand for retail leasing was nearly nonexistent. By 2010, however, a plan was put forward calling for a 400,000-square-foot center on the site. But by then, Shapell was focused on selling its residential business. Shapell Industries Inc. was purchased by Toll Brothers Inc. last year for $1.6 billion. Controlled competition This year, finally, all the details have come together for the Village project, with a growing economy and a developer concentrated on income property. “This is our only line of business now; this is what we do. And that has created a priority for us to move forward quickly with this project,” Love explained. What Shapell Liberty has planned for the 345,000-square-foot Village project is boutique retailers, an upscale theater with on-site dining and restaurant options running the gamut from fine dining to fast casual. Matthew May, a retail broker and president of May Realty Advisors of Sherman Oaks, said he thinks the Village will do extremely well. “You see how many homes are being built out there and how many more can be built,” he said, adding that a major advantage for retailers in a master-planned area is that competition is controlled. The area is similar demographically to Woodland Hills, where Westfield Corp.’s 550,000-square-foot Village at Topanga is scheduled to open this month, May said. Urbane Café, a sushi bar and a brew pub are likely retail tenants for the center, and he expects rental rates to start around $3.50 a square foot. “I don’t see the chef-driven restaurants that people would love to have going in there – the area has a ways to go to get to that level,” he added. Plans for the site show an open-air layout, with restaurants, a grocery store and an 800-seat, 10-screen movie theater. A community room with a terrace, a town green and a flexible “Main Street” are meant to provide public space, with the street configured so it can be closed off to cars for events such as farmers markets. Love said 1,200 parking spaces will be placed throughout the site so there are no dead zones too far away from the shopping. Broad, sheltered pedestrian walkways will connect parking to retail and help mitigate the high winds typical of the Porter Ranch area. North of the retail area will be 12 apartment buildings with residential parking and a pool. Love said the multifamily units are elevated slightly so some units will have views over the retail buildings into the Valley. Shapell has not yet estimated the cost of the multifamily construction, though it is likely to be built concurrently with the main retail center. In addition, there are plans for a second phase of the project, to be built out on the south side of Rinaldi with a five-story, 105-room hotel, additional retail and restaurant space, and a 50,000-square-foot office building. No time line or budget has been established for phase two, Love said. ‘Old barn’ architecture One of the most vocal proponents of Porter Ranch retail is Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, who said that he toured retail centers throughout Southern California and attended a shopping center developers’ conference in Las Vegas in the spring to get design ideas. “Shapell and Liberty have been very accommodating at giving me a seat at the table in representing the community. I’ve thrown out many different iterations of the project because I felt it was critically important to have an upscale village and gathering place,” Englander said. The plan that Orange-based firm Architects Orange finalized is “Caruso-esque,” Englander said, likening its appeal to the signature retail centers – including Americana at Brand and the Grove – built by developer Rick Caruso. The buildings are wood construction, with corrugated metal and stone exterior accents reminiscent of California’s wine country. The rustic design has been well-received in the community. “I really love the old barn feel of it, it’s very cool,” said the neighborhood council’s O’Rourke. The main priority for the community, Englander said, is that the new center should not mirror the Porter Ranch Town Center, which was built in the late 1990s on the east side of Porter Ranch Road. “All the feedback I’ve gotten in talking to the community over the years is, Make it anything but what we’ve already got,” he said. In fact, residents of the community, where median household income tops $120,000 and real estate database Redfin pegs the median home list price at $790,000, howled 15 years ago when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. leased space in the 520,000-square-foot Town Center, alongside Souplantation and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft. Some locals even picketed, claiming they were promised an upscale shopping plaza that would include Nordstrom, only to learn later that Wal-Mart would anchor the complex. Despite that opposition, the Town Center retailers have done well and the center is constantly busy, said Paula Cracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council. “There appears to be plenty of business to be had in Porter Ranch,” she said. “Overall, people are just very excited about this finally getting started.”

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