Westfield proposes $1.5-billion mixed-used complex at site of aging Warner Center mall

Westfield Corp. plans to demolish its struggling Promenade shopping mall in Warner Center and replace it with a massive mixed-use complex with nearly 1,500 homes, two hotels and a concert venue.

The $1.5-billion project is meant to serve as a downtown district for the West San Fernando Valley and would be an extension of Westfield’s recently opened $350-million Village at Topanga “lifestyle center” across the street.

In additional to housing, plans for a new Promenade include shops, offices and a 15,000-seat arena for concerts and sports.

Also envisioned are 7 acres of open space, including a 1-acre park, known as Promenade Square, that could host outdoor movie nights.

“Our goal is to really transform the Promenade mall into a community destination that allows people to live, work and play all in one area,” said Larry Green, a senior vice president with Westfield.

The nearly 1,500 apartments would be spread out in several buildings and range from studio units to luxury villas, he said.

The shopping giant still needs city approvals for the redevelopment project and has launched a website to gather community support.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the area, called the proposal from Westfield “an exciting prospect for the West Valley” but one that will be subject to significant community scrutiny. 

“It has the potential to create jobs and offer the housing that is desperately needed while ensuring that the density is kept where mass transit flows, but it must be done right,” he said in a statement.

Green said the company hopes to start construction in 2020 or 2021. The project — known as Promenade 2035 —  would open in phases with a target completion date of 2035.

The redevelopment of the 34-acre site, at Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Oxnard Street, would mark a major step in an effort to expand Warner Center beyond a district dominated by office parks and towers.

In 2013, the City Council approved a new master plan for the area with the hopes of making it more pedestrian friendly, while adding additional housing and entertainment options.

Several large projects have recently opened or are underway.

Last year, Westfield opened its Village complex between the Promenade and the Westfield Topanga mall. The new open-air center features trendy restaurants, retailers, a farmers market and bocce ball courts.

In August, construction workers started to demolish the old Rocketdyne plant on Canoga Avenue. The 47-acre site will give way to a high-rise "urban neighborhood"  with 4 million square feet of residences and 1.1 million square feet of offices.

In all, nearly 1,300 Warner Center residential units have been built since 2012, said Dean Zander, a senior managing director with real estate advisory firm Berkadia. Developers are expected to break ground on another 1,200 units over the next year.

“Warner Center has proven itself as a desirable location,” Zander said.

As Warner Center has evolved though, the 43-year-old Promenade has been a drag on the neighborhood. In his statement, Blumenfield said the Promenade had become a “blighted site” subject to “intense speculation over its future”

Last year, one of the center’s few remaining tenants, The Rack bar and restaurant, described the mall as a “ghost town” in a lawsuit against Westfield. The complaint alleges the company allowed the mall to “deteriorate to a mere shadow of its former self.”

Green said Westfield did not let the Promenade fall into disrepair but noted that the closure of two Macy’s stores there last year “certainty affects the property.”

Indeed, mall owners across the country have been struggling as department stores close and consumers buy more online or increasingly spend money on dinners, concerts and other experiences rather than a new shirt.

Westfield’s response to that trend has been to pour money into its higher-end properties, creating outdoor lifestyle centers that augment traditional malls with restaurants and other leisure activities. Its Century City mall is undergoing an $800-million makeover into such a center with walking paths, gardens and a host of new eateries.

Green declined to reveal a vacancy rate for the Promenade but said some businesses remain open and will be for the “foreseeable future.” Those include AMC Theatres and Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant.

“The Promenade is not closed,” Green said. “This is the very beginning of the process.”

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

Follow me @khouriandrew on Twitter

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