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Landmark for lease

With Sport Chalet looking to open its new facility next month across the street at the new Town Center, La Cañada Properties owners this week posted a “For Lease” sign on the current Sport Chalet building on the south side of Foothill Boulevard.

This only days after Town Center developer Darren Mattix, of Mattix Development Partners, LLC, answered community questions about the facility during a Kiwanis Club luncheon meeting at Descanso Gardens.

At that time, City Manager Mark Alexander posed a question about the Sport Chalet structure, to which Mattix left the option open for a previously speculated upon possibility of a high end grocery mart — such as such as Whole Foods, Bristol Farms or Gelson’s Market — moving to the facility. Mattix said he’s heard several requests from the community for that type of business to come to La Cañada.

However, even though the Sport Chalet structure originally was built for and used as a grocery store, the city’s Downtown Village Specific Plan now limits the size of food markets allowed in sub-area No. 1, the three-lot parcel at Beulah Drive and Foothill Boulevard currently owned by the Olberz family/La Cañada Properties.

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Last fall, Mattix went to the City Council asking the city to consider a “text amendment” to the plan, which would remove the limitation for the building currently occupied by Sport Chalet. The amendment was necessary, Mattix told the council, if La Cañada Properties was to woo potential high-end grocery marts.

However, although the council voted to allow Mattix to apply for an amendment, no application was processed, Alexander said this week.

La Cañada Properties has since chosen to “test the real estate market” and see which businesses are interested in leasing the property, rather than apply for the amendment at this point, Mattix said Tuesday.

“For the time being, it’s available for lease,” Mattix said, adding that Mattix Development is still interested in developing the property for a possible high-end grocery, should that become an option.

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Mattix’s current development project, the new Town Center, is nearing completion and is already 77.7% leased, Mattix told the crowd of Kiwanians at their Aug. 16 luncheon meeting.

That leaves less than 25% of the retail space still available for lease — seven or eight open spaces, depending on if one of the spaces is divided into two — Mattix said, adding that that the long-awaited development should see spurts of ribbon cuttings and grand opening in the next few months.

Mattix said he’s pleased to have that much of the complex already spoken for “in this [economic] climate.”

In the last year, some potential Town Center tenants had to change their plans in light of the current economy, which “turned really south,” Mattix said. A few examples he provided were of an initial offer to lease from a branch of the now-troubled IndyMac Bank, and prior negotiations that fell through for a Borders bookstore.

Ground broke on the Town Center development in June 2007. The $60 million+ project includes about 145,000 square feet of retail space on nearly 12 acres of land in the heart of La Cañada.

Despite about 40 days of rain delays in construction, the buildings are set for completion on schedule, Mattix said

“We’re three weeks from this project having the appearance of being done, but that’s when the individual tenants will have to finish up the inside and be building out the structures,” he said.

The first business to open will be the Sport Chalet facility, which is set for an Aug. 20 opening in building A of the complex. The HomeGoods store is scheduled to open Oct. 15 in building B, Mattix said, adding that some of the other new tenants will have a “quicker turnaround” and should be opening within the next 90 days.

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Chipotle Grill hasn’t officially announced its opening at the center; however, the Mexican restaurant chain recently posted a request for a liquor license at the site and, Fred Buss, senior planner for the city of La Cañada confirmed that it has applied for a conditional use permit for its Town Center business.

And, though another restaurant is expected in the Angeles Crest and Foothill Boulevard corner octagonal portion of the center, Mattix told the Kiwanians he’s not yet at liberty to announce the name of that sit-down restaurant.

Buss previously confirmed that three possible restaurants were competing for that site, and, according to Mattix, one of those is already in the works, but, he added, he’s not allowed to divulge the name until the restaurant is ready to go public.

New tenants at the site are given an exclusive, which means there won’t be competing businesses within the center. For example, Mattix said, the highly speculated AT&T; store — which he also won’t confirm — means there won’t be a Verizon or Sprint business there.

Mattix said the park area on the eastern portion of the Town Center and building C, the structure rapidly going up along Angeles Crest Highway, is “a little bit behind schedule,” due to delays while Southern California Edison replaced “an aging system.” However, building C is expected to be completed in time for the city to sign off on the structures on Aug. 6, and the park should be finished shortly thereafter.

“It’s been a long road, but it has been a quick one,” Mattix said of the construction process. “We’ve come a long way in the last several months.”

Although he didn’t give away much new in answer to what he calls the most asked question, of who will be the new tenants, Mattix answered several queries from community members at the end of the luncheon. He confirmed that the center is hooked up to sewers — at a cost of about $450,000 in fees for county connection — and about $1.1 million in fees were paid for electrical work to Southern California Edison.

Mattix also reported on the successful move of an evergreen tree from the west portion of the property to its current location on the edge of the center’s planned park. About $27,500 was spent to move the 230,000-pound deodar cedar tree, which, Mattix said, is doing well in its new location.

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