The Northridge Fashion Center, which already has the highest sales volume of any mall in the San Fernando Valley, is about to begin a major expansion that is all but certain to include Robinson's and May Co. department stores, according to the mall's management and executives of the two chains.
The new three-story department stores, each with about 150,000 square feet, will make the Northridge center the first in the Valley to have branches of all four of the major Southern California regional department stores. The center, at the corner of Tampa Avenue and Nordhoff Street, already has a Broadway and a Bullock's. National chains represented are Sears and J.C. Penney.
The mall also will add 20 to 30 stores to its current 145, a spokesman for a partnership that owns the mall said last week.
Building to Begin in 1986
But the foundation for the mall's proposed expansion is the addition of the two department stores, construction of which is expected to begin in the first months of 1986 and finish in time for the 1987 winter holiday shopping season.
"We're committed. We have our business arrangement completed and we're well on the way toward this becoming a reality," said Al Schettini, president of Robinson's. His comments echoed those of May Co. officials and the mall's managers, all of whom said letters of intent have been signed among the parties, although no money has yet changed hands.
The Northridge Fashion Center is the fourth largest in sales volume in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. It is unclear what the expansion will do to that ranking. It is clear that the mall's expansion will give it an added edge in the competition among the Valley's large shopping centers, several of which have recently spent considerable money on improvements or are planning to do so.
"There is intense competition among the centers locally, and those stores are certainly going to add to that," said Keith Anderson, general manager of the Promenade Mall in Woodland Hills.
"Obviously, with Northridge having a Robinson's, a consumer might not come over here, but go there. But each of us have our own strengths. They don't have a Bullock's Wilshire or a Saks, and we do." Bullock's Wilshire is a sister store of Bullock's, with shared ownership but a slightly more upscale and specialized retailing emphasis.
Anderson said the Promenade Mall has not had any major expansions or additions in its 11-year history. But several other large local malls have.
"Many of the centers are not only old but were badly kept over the years, and to compete and keep an edge they have to make improvements," said Patricia Neff, general manager of the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, built in 1962. She said that managers at Fashion Square are in the early stages of planning a "major renovation" that will result in "a new and more updated appearance."
$3.2 Million Already Spent
The owners of the Northridge mall have spent about $3.2 million on remodeling the center since March, 1984. The improvements include four skylights, an elevator, fresh paint, and new flooring and carpets.
"The center is 13 years old, and we felt it was time to do something," said Paul Wilson, a vice president with Richard Ellis Inc., the London-based real estate investment firm that helps oversee the mall.
The mall is owned by UKA Northridge Inc., a partnership whose members are the pension funds of 40 large British corporations, Wilson said. Wilson, based in the San Francisco office of Richard Ellis, said the 20 to 30 additional stores will open about the same time as the new department stores. He declined to say what tenants are expected.
Although the smaller stores lease space from the mall, the large retail chains will buy the property on which their stores are to be built, Wilson said. He and executives of the chains would not disclose details of the real estate transaction or the stores' planned locations in the mall.
Expansion at Topanga
The Topanga Plaza mall, the Northridge mall's closest competitor in sales, has expanded, spending about $10 million on construction and improvements in 1983 and 1984, according to James Charter, the Topanga Plaza's general manager. Charter said the mall, in Canoga Park, had 86 stores in 1982 and has opened 40 since.
The Fallbrook Square Shopping Center in Canoga Park opened in 1964 as an open-air shopping center. It is being partly enclosed and expanded. The enclosed part will have about 130 stores, and a part that will remain open is expected to have about 45 stores, said Bill Hidalgo, the mall's general manager. Together, the 175 stores will cover 1.1-million square feet. Now, the mall is on about 800,000 square feet and includes about 38 stores, according to managers at the mall. The center also will change its name to Fallbrook Mall, Hidalgo said. Mall expansions such as the one at the Northridge Fashion Center also add jobs. Schettini, Robinson's president, said the new store probably will have an average staff of about 350, with 40% of it made up of part-time workers. The May Co. store is expected to use about the same number of people. About 2,500 to a seasonal peak of 5,500 are now employed at the Northridge Fashion Center, managers there said. The number swells for the winter holiday season, then shrinks in January.
Store owners at the center said they expect the mall's expansion to be a boon to them.
"I think it's great, because it will bring in a lot more people," said Cheryl Edwards, the manager of a Casual Corner clothing store there.
Reflecting the response of other store managers at the mall, she said: "We need high-fashion anchor stores here. It brings in a high-grade customer and everyone benefits. I do an excellent business now, so the market is obviously here."
MALL SALES Gross taxable sales for top malls in the San Fernando Valley, fiscal 1983:
Northridge Fashion Center $187,322,000 Topanga Plaza $107,514,000 Sherman Oaks Fashion Square $99,558,000 Woodland Hills Promenade Mall $90,848,000 Sherman Oaks Galleria $70,516,000 Panorama City Mall $56,920,000 Fallbrook Square Shopping Center $56,443,000 Laurel Plaza $36,891,000
Gross taxable sales for top malls in Greater Los Angeles area, fiscal 1983:
South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa $343,750,000 Del Amo Fashion Center, Torrance $331,825,000 Lakewood Center $216,064,000