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Topanga Plaza Proposes Huge Expansion

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an apparent move to establish Topanga Plaza as the San Fernando Valley’s premier shopping mall, its operator has proposed adding a third floor of shops, a new department store and a pair of multilevel parking structures.

All told, the Westfield Corp. would enlarge the mall by more than 40%, including a 75,000-square-foot expansion of the Valley’s only Nordstrom department store, a company spokesman said Wednesday. The proposal includes demolition of an existing department store.

“We feel it’s a terrific opportunity to build a better center,” said Randy Smith, executive vice president of marketing for Westfield.

“It’s in a superior location and it has the area’s lone Nordstrom, which has been talking to us about expanding the store.”

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If approved, the plan would raise the stakes in the Valley’s already competitive retail scene. Westfield expects to submit a written proposal to the city, but first will meet with area residents next week to unveil its plans and gauge their reaction.

At least part of the proposal--the new third level--came as news to competitors.

“It certainly is something we’ll be watchful of and concerned about in our continuing efforts to compete,” said Annette Betchers, marketing director at Northridge Fashion Center, which has its own plans to add a 10-screen movie theater and restaurants. “But I think there’s definitely room in the marketplace for each of us.”

At the Promenade Mall in Woodland Hills, managers said they only recently learned of Topanga Plaza’s expansion plans. The Promenade has targeted the high-end market with such shops as Restoration Hardware, J. Crew and Ann Taylor.

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“Certainly we’re always keeping our eye on our competitors,” said Ken Stephens, marketing director for the Promenade. “But from our point of view, we have spent the last three years creating a really differentiated environment and a coexistence with Topanga Plaza.”

Last spring, a 16-theater AMC movie complex opened at the Promenade Mall along with a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, both drawing big crowds. The mall also recently opened a food court filled with eateries not found at Topanga Plaza.

Next Wednesday’s community meeting will be the second time in recent months that the Westfield Corp. has presented a development proposal to the Woodland Hills/West Hills Neighborhood Planning Advisory Council.

In March, the company outlined a plan for a 225,000-square-foot retail project for the southeast corner of Topanga Canyon and Victory boulevards. Possible tenants could include a bookstore, a linens outlet and a toy store. The plan also calls for a two-story, 900-space parking structure on the site.

During the meeting, advisory council members questioned the viability of another retail center in an area already populated by many other stores, citing Topanga Plaza directly across Victory Boulevard.

The advisory council reviews projects seeking approval through the Warner Center Specific Plan and reports to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Laura Chick’s office on whether a project would be welcome in the community. The advisory council also is empowered to suggest changes, although ultimately such building proposals must win approval from the city Planning Commission and, in most cases, the City Council.

A spokeswoman for Chick said the councilwoman will not take a position on Topanga Plaza expansion until after the developer has met with the advisory council. Chick will use the advisory council’s recommendations in deciding whether to support the proposal.

Chick’s office has alerted residents to the expansion proposal in a meeting agenda sent to homes.

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“From what little was on the agenda, it sounds like they’re covering our usual concerns regarding parking,” said Gordon Murley, president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization. “All we’re concerned about is that traffic can move, that there’s enough parking and that things work in the area.

“I think right now we have a capacity that works well for the area. I don’t know whether adding more to it is going to be of any value or not.” Under the Westfield plan, 2,000 new parking spots would be created in a three-level parking structure on the mall’s east side, a two-level structure would be added on the west side and roof parking would go up over the mall.

One part of the proposal Murley plans to keep an eye on is the proposed expansion of Nordstrom. He said it was not clear from the meeting agenda whether the department store will be expanded by using space currently occupied by nearby retailers in the mall or by enlarging Nordstrom’s blueprint by building new space.

Speaking of the latter option, Murley said: “We wouldn’t want to see that.”

Wednesday’s meeting will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fallbrook Mall Community Room at 6633 Fallbrook Ave., near the food court.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Proposed Expansion

The expansion of proposal includes the demolition of a department store and the addition of:

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* Three-level department store (225,000 sq.ft.)

* Third level to top of existing mall (169,000 sq.ft.)

* Expansion of Nordstrom (additional 75,000 sq. ft.)

* Stand-alone space at north end (7,500 sq. ft.)

* Parking of more than 2,000 spaces.

Source: City of Los Angeles


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