New owners plan $30-million face lift for Promenade at Howard Hughes Center

Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, a prominent but dated mall in Westchester, has been sold to L.A. investors

The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, a prominent but dated mall next to the 405 Freeway in Westchester, has been sold to Los Angeles investors who plan to give it a $30-million face lift.

Laurus Corp., a real estate development firm that acquires and improves commercial properties, said it plans a greater emphasis on food and entertainment along with a more pedestrian-friendly layout. The mall, completed in 2001, was designed to serve customers arriving by car, but thousands of people have recently moved to the area and could visit on foot, the new owners said.

Howard Hughes Center, the neighborhood where the mall is located, has a collection of high-rise office buildings and a growing number of apartments. Soon it will have a total of 1.3 million square feet of office space and 3,200 apartments, said Jean Paul Szita, president of Laurus Corp.

The mall is also close to Playa Vista, an office, residential and retail development being built on land that once was home to the aviation empire of business mogul Howard Hughes.

The investment was spurred in part by "the purchasing power of the residents and employees who live and work in such close proximity," Szita said.

Laurus Corp. bought the mall from Passco Cos. last week. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but real estate data provider CoStar Group Inc. valued it at about $100 million.

The mall's new design, by Los Angeles architect the Jerde Partnership Inc., calls for more indoor-outdoor uses such as courtyards with landscaping. The installation of south-facing escalators and a new pedestrian crossing on Center Drive aims to make the mall easy to access by pedestrians.

The courtyard adjacent to the Cinemark theater complex will become the new center of the mall, with a new outdoor screening area and fire pit, as well as new restaurants, an outdoor dining area and casual lounge space. The team will also update the current Art Deco retail facades throughout the center to reflect a more modern aesthetic.

The Playa Vista area is experiencing a growth boom. In recent years many technology and media firms that found themselves priced out of Santa Monica and other Westside office markets have gravitated to new and renovated buildings in Playa Vista.

Internet titan Google Inc. last year bought nearly 12 acres at Playa Vista that is zoned for new offices or studios. Google is also expected to lease the massive 1943 hangar where aviator Hughes built his "Spruce Goose" airplane. Yahoo Inc., another huge Internet company, said in January that it will move regional operations from Santa Monica to Playa Vista.

Landlord Laurus Corp. has more than $1 billion in assets under management and is affiliated with real estate private equity firm Ethika Investments.

Twitter: @rogervincent

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