Caruso champions Americana's future

NORTH HOLLYWOOD – Billionaire developer Rick Caruso told an audience of business leaders on Wednesday that he expects customer traffic at his Americana at Brand property to surpass that of The Grove in L.A. in the coming years.

Caruso said the Americana at Brand currently attracts 17 million visitors a year, but predicted it would eventually exceed the 20 million annual visitors who visit his Los Angeles retail center, The Grove.

Speaking at a Valley Industry & Commerce Association luncheon at the Beverly Garden Holiday Inn, he also called the Glendale Galleria "old and tired," pointing to the financial woes of the mega-mall's parent, General Growth Properties, as a major leech on improving the property.

"The unfortunate thing for us is we hoped the Galleria could make improvements," he said, adding that the makeup and fragrance store Sephora would move from the Galleria to the Americana at Brand in January.

Galleria General Manager Chris Bilotto could not be reached Wednesday.

Caruso said apartments at the Americana are fully occupied and that 97% of the retail space is leased. While Caruso did not mention the condominiums, Americana spokeswoman Jennifer Gordon said 72 of the 100 condos have been sold.

Most of Caruso's remarks at the luncheon were about Los Angeles.

A Republican and former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Caruso said he is strongly considering running for mayor in 2013, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is termed out of office.

"It is something I am interested in doing," he said. "It is something I've thought about doing. Honestly, it is something I would like to do."

The Brentwood resident said he still needs to weigh the benefits of a political race. He had been considered a potentially strong challenger to Villaraigosa, but pulled out in 2008, citing the strain of public life on his family and two young daughters.

"It's family. It's business," he said Wednesday.

Los Angeles should jettison its gross receipts tax to improve the economic climate, build its mass transit system above ground and support the unique communities that form the fabric of the city, he added.

"A great city doesn't require people to get in their cars," he said. "It encourages them to spend time in their neighborhoods."

While the mayor's race is still years away, L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry is expected to run. Other possible candidates include L.A. Controller Wendy Greuel and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

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