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Aging Sherman Oaks Mall Gets Needed Facelift

The big mall news in the Valley is the massive Village at Topanga project that will improve and connect Westfield Group’s two malls along Topanga Canyon Boulevard. And lost amid the hubbub is the fact that the Australian mall developer is giving a facelift to its dated but upscale Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks. The mall is undergoing its first renovations since 1981, with much of the interior work already completed and exterior renovations set to begin this year. “We were due for an update,” said Stephanie Eglin, director of marketing for the Westfield Fashion Square. “The mall looks noticeably different. We were looking pretty dated, so the mall has a new energy and a new brightness to it.” During the second half of last year Westfield repainted the mall’s interior, replaced lower level floors and added several seating areas. The mall is slated for similar improvements with the floors and additional paint on the second level. Exterior changes will mainly consist of landscaping improvements later this year. The fixes are relatively minor for a mall that is anchored by a Bloomingdale’s given the hundreds of millions Westfield is spending in the West Valley – and has spent elsewhere in the world to build massive, cutting-edge malls. Elgin said that someday the mall may experience a bigger renovation that would allow it to add more restaurants and entertainment options, but there are no immediate plans. “It’s always a conversation because adding that lifestyle piece would allow people to come and stay longer,” she said, noting that the nearly 1 million-square-foot retail center has reached capacity with its roughly 150 shops. Matthew May, a retail broker and president of May Realty Advisors in Sherman Oaks, said the mall would greatly benefit from an expansion of restaurants, similar to what Westfield did at its Century City mall. “There’s a lot of demand right now,” he said. “There’s a need for more restaurants in the Valley, and for better ones.” Among some recent store moves, clothing chain H&M has announced it will open at the mall this summer, taking a spot the size of four stores, Eglin said. Athleta, the sporting wear shop owned by Gap Inc., opened at the mall March 6. The closest Athleta outlet at The Grove in the Fairfax District. Additionally, stores such as Kiehl’s and Free People opened last year to appeal to women and add more variety to the center. Tabling the Tablet Cheesecake Factory Inc. has decided against installing touchscreen devices in its 181 stores, the company announced in a recent earnings call. The casual dining chain based in Calabasas was expected to add tablet menus for customers to order and pay for food, something that DineEquity Inc. of Glendale is installing at its Applebee’s chains and Brinker International Inc. of Dallas at its Chili’s chain. David Overton, chairman and chief executive of Cheesecake Factory, told analysts that he doesn’t believe Cheesecake customers are looking for the tablet experience. “I doubt very much that we’re going to do tablets,” he said. “I think it’s great for Chili’s in that level, where people are coming in for one experience, but for us, they’re coming in for a very different experience. And I think they want to be waited on and served.” Overton said the company isn’t opposed to using other technologies such as texting waiting customers to alert them when a table is ready, but “Right now we don’t have a roadmap that talks specifically about adding technology for the sake of adding technology,” he said. Galleria Chic Armani Jeans is heading to the Glendale Galleria this July. The denim line from Giorgio Armani will make its West Coast debut with the new location, and it will be the third retail store of its kind in the U.S. Also, eatery La Baguette opened in February to kick off the rollout of other new retailers and restaurants. Other tenants moving in between now and August are Lolli & Pops, Blaze Pizza, Earthbar, Coach Inc., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Zumiez and Brighton Collectibles LLC. “Our goal is to continue to provide the best in retail and entertainment for our guests,” said Christina K. Riojas, marketing manager for the Glendale Galleria, in an email. Stephanie Forshee can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or sforshee@sfvbj.com.

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