City's largest retail development to be sold?

Local business and community leaders say the reported possible sale of La Cañada Town Center could result in a number of improvements to the property that will benefit retailers and residents alike.

Current owners of Town Center recently solicited and received a number of credible bids for the retail and restaurant portions of the complex, said Eric Olberz, son of Sport Chalet founder Norbert Olberz and head of the family’s real estate holdings company that developed the center, La Cañada Properties Inc.

Neither Olberz nor Rob Fuelling, a senior vice president of IDS Real Estate Group — the firm that La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and City Council members say may already be in escrow for the property — would comment this week about whether any deal was pending.

But Chamber of Commerce President Pat Anderson said representatives of IDS real estate recently informed the chamber of their interest in purchasing the 13-acre Town Center and making improvements to the property.

Ideas for changes discussed by IDS, she said, include increased use of Olberz Park for family-friendly community events, addition of an outdoor marketplace area and installation of shaded walking paths and other recreational elements.

“It’s my understanding that IDS embraces the original concept of the Town Center: beautiful, pedestrian-friendly and an old-fashioned meeting place where residents can stroll down a path or relax on a bench. The chamber hopes that [under IDS] the Town Center will be an even brighter jewel in of our business community and continue to be an asset to the city,” Anderson said.

While the 45,000-square-foot Sport Chalet store is part of Town Center’s retail complex, the company’s corporate headquarters at the northern portion of the property was not included in the call for bids, Olberz said.

Based in Los Angeles, IDS Real Estate Group is involved in the development, leasing and management of numerous commercial properties throughout Southern California, according to its website.

IDS is currently developing the 145,000-square-foot Playhouse Plaza in Pasadena and has built or restored several other buildings there, including the historic Thatcher building on Green Street and Mentor Avenue and the fashionable 70,000-square foot office and retail complex at 80 S. Lake Ave., according to press reports.

La Cañada Mayor Dave Spence and Councilman Michael Davitt said they are aware of, and optimistic about, the firm’s interest in Town Center, though IDS has given no official notice to City Hall.

“From what I’ve heard, IDS is committed to a much more active and user-friendly environment [at Town Center],” said Davitt.

“I think it’s a positive thing for the group to come in and make upgrades, added Spence, who also anticipates a deal will be reached.

La Cañada businessman Charlie Kamar, a member of the chamber who recently campaigned for a City Council seat, said he was excited that increased investment in Town Center could make the complex a more appealing gathering place for locals to enjoy.

“If anyone can do that, IDS can,” Kamar said.

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