Builders Already Plan to Double Size of High Desert Mall

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The developers of the Antelope Valley's first regional mall gave a preview Tuesday of the soon-to-open $75-million complex, and disclosed an expansion plan that would nearly double the mall's size and add four department stores for a total of eight in the coming years.

Mall executives and civic leaders say that they hope the 750,000-square-foot first phase of the Antelope Valley Mall in Palmdale will not only broaden shopping opportunities for area residents, but also provide a community gathering spot. The indoor complex, located at Avenue P and the Antelope Valley Freeway, is scheduled to open Sept. 24.

Mall General Manager Bryan Pearson showed off the sprawling one-story development to reporters Tuesday, promising it will be air-conditioned, have five fountains and at least 100 trees inside, ongoing entertainment and even valets in the restrooms.

"We're emphasizing convenience," said Pearson, who works for Forest City Commercial Development, the managing general partner of the mall. "After that drive up the 14 Freeway," he said, referring to the area's large commuting population, "you need a nice place to relax. We've got it right here."

Forest City officials also disclosed their more ambitious expansion plan for the proposed second phase of the mall that would ultimately double its total size to about 1.5 million square feet and add four "upper scale" department stores to the four anchors that are part of phase one.

The developer's earlier, smaller plan had called for a combined 1-million-square-foot project on the 82-acre site, including only two added department stores for a total of six. Forest City opted for the larger expansion by canceling a planned shopping center on an adjoining 24-acre site.

Forest City officials said the switch was the result of numerous department store chains expressing interest in participating in the planned expansion. Pearson said Forest City is negotiating with three store chains for those slots, but he declined to disclose their names.

Pearson said the developer hopes to complete the expansion to a 1.5-million-square-foot project with eight anchor stores by 1994. But other Forest City executives would only say they hope to start some expansion, possibly on a smaller scale with one or two added anchors, sometime next year.

The four major stores in the mall's first phase are J.C. Penney and Sears, which both moved from older outlets in the Antelope Valley, and two new department stores to the area, Harris and Gottschalks. The J.C. Penney store opened Aug. 30. The other three also may open a few days before the mall.

Pearson also said the mall has leased about 78% of its some 250,000 square feet of smaller retail space, better than the developer's 70% goal. About 75 of about 120 mall shop spaces, such as jewelers and clothiers, should be occupied by opening day, Pearson said.

The mall itself, the 18th managed by Forest City, has a Mediterranean-style architecture, with a tan stucco and brick exterior to blend with the high desert, and a pale pink interior set off with green-colored steel columns. The emphasis is on natural lighting, with many skylights and clerestory windows.

The mall is expected to employ 1,500 to 2,500, including about 50 off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officers and county marshals who will work part time to provide security. All of the 3,953 parking spaces will be in uncovered surface lots. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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