By  on April 19, 2007

After a two-year battle with rival Westfield Group, mall developer Caruso Affiliated has won the right to build The Shops at Santa Anita, an 825,000-square-foot outdoor shopping center adjacent to the landmark Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, Calif.

The city council in Arcadia, which is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, voted unanimously for the project on Tuesday.

Australia-based Westfield Group operates the Westfield Santa Anita shopping center across the street from the proposed site and funded the community organization Arcadia First to petition the city council to reject Caruso's environmental impact report.

In addition to stores and restaurants, the $500 million shopping center is to include park-like settings and a performing arts theater. Plans for upscale condominiums were scrapped because of resistance from local residents. The 60-acre project will have 27 acres of open space.

Westfield did not return calls seeking comment.

Rick Caruso, president and chief executive officer of Caruso Affiliated, said he anticipated a lawsuit to try to overturn the approval or a petition drive for a voter referendum.

"Their hope is that if they can delay long enough, most people will give up, because they don't have the money to fight,'' he said.

Caruso had a similar struggle in Glendale, Calif., in 2005, when mall developer General Growth Properties, which owns the Glendale Galleria, challenged city approvals for Caruso's $429 million Americana at Brand shopping center. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge rejected the case, and Americana at Brand is to open next year.

Anticipating the battle to come, Caruso sent a letter to Westfield chairman Frank Lowy last week, suggesting that the two companies fund a $10 million Community Foundation in Arcadia instead of continuing in a costly legal fight.

"Based on experience in Glendale, General Growth Properties spent at least $5 million through lawsuits and referendums," Caruso said. "We spent close to that defending ourselves.…Let's put that money into the community, then let the city decide how it gets used."

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