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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Lots to Like in $1.5 Billion Promenade Project

With its Promenade 2035 project, developer Westfield Corp. continues to shape the future look and feel of the Warner Center area in Woodland Hills. The Century City company has filed plans with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to turn its indoor Westfield Promenade shopping mall into a $1.5 billion mixed-use development. When completed, the project would have 1,432 residential units, 244,000 square feet of retail space, 629,000 square feet of office space, a 15,000-seat, 320,000-square-foot entertainment and sports center and two hotels with 572 guest rooms. Larry Green, senior vice president with Westfield, said construction on the first phase of the project wouldn’t begin for another four to five years. “We have designed our plans in a way that are sensitive to the existing businesses at the Promenade,” Green said. The Promenade has struggled in recent years, and only about a dozen retail tenants remain at the 34-acre mall site, bounded by Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Oxnard Street, Erwin Street and Owensmouth Avenue. They include restaurants Maggiano’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, independently-owned The Rack and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and an AMC movie theater. Westfield has 34 shopping centers in the United States and Europe. It bought the Promenade in 1998. The mall is one of three Westfield properties in the Warner Center. The others are Westfield Topanga mall located between Victory Boulevard and Vanowen Street and the adjacent Village at Westfield Topanga, an outdoor mall that opened last year. While those developments are retail only, Promenade 2035 adds a residential element in studios, one- to three-bedroom apartments and luxury villas. It also will feature Class A and creative office space that can accommodate startups and existing businesses. Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, whose district includes the Warner Center, noted that the filing with the city is just a first step for the project. While the project has the potential to create jobs and much-needed housing, it should be done right, Blumenfield said in a statement emailed to the Business Journal. “I believe that, with proper community input, this multi-use project can further enhance the West Valley as a destination the whole city will want to emulate,” Blumenfield said. Green said Promenade 2035 was the result of the work done by area stakeholders on the Warner Center 2035 plan that set development guidelines and goals. The City Council approved the Warner Center 2035 plan in October 2013. The goal of the plan was to make Warner Center a more walkable area where people would not need their cars to get to work or find entertainment, dining and other amenities. “It is a smaller, less dense plan than what is allowed under the 2035 plan but still has the fundamental principles of live, work, play and walkability,” Green said, referring to the Promenade 2035 project. Forgotten tenants In his statement, even Blumenfield acknowledged that the Promenade had become a “blighted site” and one where speculation was rampant about its future. Yossi Kviatkovsky knows about that first hand. As the owner of The Rack, a bar and restaurant on the south side of the mall, he has watched as tenant after tenant left and how the interior courtyards were attracting more homeless people than shoppers. Last year, Kviatkovsky filed a lawsuit against Westfield alleging the company had breached its contract for failing to maintain the mall, allowing trash to pile up, and misrepresenting plans to upgrade it. The case is in Los Angeles Superior Court. Westfield has denied the allegations. Kviatkovsky said he wasn’t aware of what Westfield’s plans for the mall had been until news reports began circulating the weekend of Oct. 15. After that, a brochure went out to area residents about the project and a website became active. While perhaps unintentional, the message to the public was that the mall was soon closing and there was no reason to go there. Kviatkovsky said his business dropped by 50 percent and that he answered numerous phone calls asking if The Rack was still open. “They did not think of creating a PR campaign saying there are still reasons to come to the Promenade,” he added. “That is the devastating part.” Kviatkovsky’s lease runs for another nine years. Green said that when construction starts it will begin in areas of the mall where there are no tenants so as not to disrupt the businesses that remain. That also allows for the project to be built in the right way with lower-story buildings constructed first followed by taller buildings as they get closer to other high rises on Oxnard Street and Owensmouth Avenue, Green said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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