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Friday, Jul 12, 2024

A Sporting Chance for Promenade 2035 Project

Could “Play ball!” be heard in the Warner Center in the coming years? The Westfield Group is moving ahead with plans to remake the Westfield Promenade shopping center into a big mixed-use complex, including a sports facility that could house a minor league baseball team or some other sport. Larry Green, a senior vice president for development of the Westfield Group, said Jan. 25 that the shopping center owner is talking to several sports teams about the possibility of putting a practice facility or minor league team in what is envisioned to be a 15,000-seat sports arena or stadium at Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Oxnard Street, which is the southwest corner of the Promenade property. Green made his comments during and after a board meeting of the Valley Economic Alliance at Valley Presbyterian Hospital. “I think there is interest from minor league baseball teams to come and play here,” Green said after the meeting. Because a minor league team would be moving into Los Angeles, the in-market major league teams essentially have veto power. “The Angels and the Dodgers will have to approve any team that comes. The Dodgers would have to approve the Angels; the Angels would have to approve (the Dodgers). They both have to agree,” he said. “There is a trend that is happening in baseball that you are seeing the minor league teams come closer and closer to the urban areas, so I think there is a desire. But we will have to see what happens,” he said, adding that “there are a lot of minor league baseball teams in California,” so any minor league tenant could be a team other than one affiliated with the Dodgers or Angels. He said the Clippers seem uninterested in building a practice facility there. “But both the Rams and the Chargers are looking for permanent L.A. headquarters and practice facilities,” he continued. “We would love to be on their list of (sites). We will see what happens.” Several business people have said privately that they believe a soccer team is a possibility, and others have opined that a Chargers practice field would be a good fit. Minor interest? In baseball, Southern and Central California is dominated in the minor leagues by the California League, an Advanced Single A league based in Oxnard. The AAA Pacific Coast League has two teams in the state, one each in Fresno and West Sacramento. California League President Charlie Blaney said that the eight franchises are affiliated with the major league teams in the western U.S.: five in California and one each in Seattle, Colorado and Arizona. There had been 10 teams in the league until last year when the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks were realigned into the Carolina League, also an Advanced Class A league, Blaney said. The Dodgers affiliate in the California League is the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, while the Angels affiliate is the Inland Empire 66ers, who play in San Bernardino. As far as he knows, no team in the league was considering a move from their current location, Blaney said. “We have a sound league, and no one is looking to move,” he added. “There have been no California League teams that have requested to relocate.” Green said his company put out a request for proposals several months ago for the possible sports site, and some proposals call for the site to be used for entertainment. The request for proposals also indicated the center could have a roof on it. “We are getting a lot of various interested parties. People that want to do it as pure concerts and events, people that want to do sports, people that want to do family recreational facilities. It is not for sports only. It is really a broad RFP and we are fielding all the responses for that.” He said the deadline for the RFP “is a little loose. We are probably looking to short list in the next couple of months. Then we’re going to spend three or four months working with the short list of people. The goal is to have a decision made by the end of the year.” But there is a small possibility that Amazon.com Inc. could choose the site as its second headquarters, seriously changing those plans. “Amazon would need every inch” of the 34-acre Promenade site, Green said. He said Amazon also would need the entire similarly-sized old Rocketdyne site a few blocks to the north of the Promenade. Green opined that he didn’t think it is likely that Amazon would choose the Promenade site in Woodland Hills. Although Los Angeles was named as one of the 20 places the Seattle-based ecommerce giant is considering for its second headquarters, he believes it wants to be “in a different time zone.” Nonetheless, he said it would be “a dynamite place for Amazon. Hopefully, we can stay in the hunt.” Big plans The interior mall portion of the existing Promenade is closed. A few outward-facing restaurants remain open and an AMC movie complex continues doing good business, Green said, adding the theater’s lease runs until 2030. Westfield’s plan is to scrape the old mall and create a large $1.5 billion mixed-use complex. When completed, the project would have 1,432 residential units, 244,000 square feet of retail space, 629,000 square feet of office space, and two hotels with 572 guest rooms, in addition to the 320,000-square-foot entertainment and sports center. “We are negotiating with grocery stores, drug stores and the U.S. Postal Service to keep them in the Warner Center,” Green said. The post office moved to vacant space in the Promenade after its former site on Clarendon Street was sold to build a five-story apartment complex. The Westfield project is still moving through the city’s approval process. Construction would start on the northeast corner of the property at Owensmouth Avenue and Erwin Street and progress counterclockwise around the property. The first phase would be completed in 2021. It would take an additional 14 years to finish the entire project. 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 Los Angeles 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. “This can be a new ingredient to create a downtown feel in the Warner Center,” Green said of Westfield’s project.

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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