The Westfield cochief executive officer on Tuesday celebrates the completion of a $1 billion project that began in 2002 through the developer’s acquisition of the property to do specifically what Lowy said is now being unveiled. That is, blowing up and out a shopping mall that services a large residential and office workforce with new restaurants such as Eataly and Javier’s, new concepts in the vein of Bonobos or Amazon Books, flagships such as the one Nordstrom built and with tech threaded throughout.
“What [retailers] need to do and what we need to do is understand where the customer is, what they want [and] give it to them,” Lowy said. “And I actually think part of the issue we can help with is making shopping frictionless.”
What that looks like at Century City includes five valet drop-off points, the ability to reserve parking online and an Uber lounge.
“The mall opening is extremely significant for the company,” Lowy said. “It has been a 15-year journey, but I think we have one of the best assets that we have on the ground and if you look at where the company has been going, we have taken the company down from 120 malls in 2010 to 35 today. And those 35 malls, when this development program finishes, will be worth about $50 billion of business.”
Among the centers in Westfield’s portfolio that represent this refined product — a portfolio of flagships, in Lowy’s words — are Westfield London, Westfield Stratford City, Westfield Century City, Westfield UTC and Westfield Valley Fair. The Valley Fair property in San Jose is set for completion in 2019.
Lowy classified the portfolio as second to none and exemplary of the 21st-century model of what a mall should be before suggesting to WWD one need only look at the competition down the street to see the difference between a 20th century and 21st-century shopping center.
The comment begs the question of who emerges the winner on the west side, where Caruso’s The Grove shopping center resides, as does Taubman Company’s Beverly Center. The latter is in the midst of its own major construction in which the developer is plugging $500 million into a major redo that aims to open it up to the surrounding streets, add more restaurants, tech-enhanced parking and skylights.
“We’re not concerned at all,” Lowy said of the competition. “I suppose, to put it bluntly, they’re all playing catch-up….I think what we’ve done is we will change the nature and pattern of shopping on the west side of Los Angeles. We’ve spent $1 billion in demolishing 75 percent of a good, working mall.”
If Westfield believes it can dominate the region’s west side, would it consider the east side in downtown’s popping real estate market where residential, office and retail development is happening at a rapid clip? Lowy shut down a report Monday that said Westfield is looking at the central business district with a categorical no, and that’s not for a lack of interest in the urban submarket.
“I think downtown is spectacular by the way and the developments that are being done there are very exciting,” he said. “Twenty-seven years from now if you look at the evolution, and I’ll be a little controversial here, I’d say it’s about time. I always thought it was a good market. The reason it wouldn’t interest us is…we are focusing on extremely large assets that do very, very large volumes in major cities and when you look at downtown the opportunity to build a Century City or a Topanga, it doesn’t exist.”
Focusing back on the near term, all eyes are on Westfield Century City, which holds a grand opening celebration Tuesday evening that includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Lowy’s final thought on the center now that it’s completed: “Once we’re done, I’m happy to be done.”
For More West Coast Coverage in WWD: