Americana progressing

DOWNTOWN — As drivers and pedestrians crane their necks to assess the fortress-like Americana at Brand construction site, it may appear that the 15-acre megaplex is far from completion.

And the 475,000-square-foot development is still in the making, but it remains on target for an April 17 completion date, said Rick Caruso, president and chief executive officer of Americana developer Caruso Affiliated.

“It will be done,” he said.

The stores are expected to open soon after construction is completed, and leasing and sales offices for the project’s residential components are slated to open in about 30 days, he said.

Workers are finishing cement facades of the ground-floor retail spaces and residential buildings with a mix of brick, limestone and marble finishes.

Three-thousand miles away, sculptures are being finished in a New York foundry.

The progress, which was delayed slightly by recent rains, Caruso said, comes amid a stark downturn in the residential real estate market and on the heels of a disappointing holiday shopping season for retailers.

But the Americana — like other Caruso Affiliated projects, including The Grove in Los Angeles — is built to sustain cycles in the economy, he said.

“Our goal is for the long term,” he said. “The Grove was built during a recession.”

Gloomy economic forecasts don’t seem to have dampened interest in the residential components of the project anyway. More than 1,000 people have signed up to receive e-mail alerts about the 100 condos soon to go on sale, he said.

But the most immediate financial plus of the project may be for the workers on the site.

“The good news is we’re employing a lot of people in a down economy,” Caruso said.

Between 1,200 to 1,700 workers are on site every day, including those hired directly by retailers to construct store and restaurant interiors, he said.

And when those workers are done in April, more local jobs are expected to support the property’s 75 retail spaces, which are about 90% leased, said Todd Russell, Caruso Affiliated executive vice president of leasing and marketing.

Some previously unannounced tenants include women’s shoe designer Guess Accessories; The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf; RUEHL, an upscale Abercrombie & Fitch spin-off; Jamba Juice; casual gourmet restaurant Granville Cafe; and Peter Alexander, which sells designer sleepwear.

Caruso Affiliated is planning to release a full list of confirmed tenants in about a week, Russell said.

The unannounced tenants will join the likes of Swedish clothing giant H&M;, kitchen equipment store Sur La Table and fine-dining Japanese restaurant Katsuya.

Most retailers are signed to 10-year leases, but their contracts often include a condition that if the business underperforms, the landlord can remove the tenant, Russell said.

A reported slowdown in the retail sales market has not affected Caruso Affiliated’s strategy for selecting retailers, he said.

“We haven’t wavered at all in our direction of how we wanted to merchandise the Americana at Brand,” Russell said.

“These projects are around for a great deal of time, so we’ve created a tenant mix that is unique from the marketplace — we have not duplicated one store from the [Glendale Galleria], so these are new retailers in the marketplace and it’s a new look, and we’re confident that the consumer will respond.”

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