LOS ANGELES — The race is on at Santa Anita, only this time it involves mall developers instead of thoroughbreds.
Westfield, the Australian-based mall company, plans to unveil a $113 million expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Santa Anita in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia on Friday as lifestyle center developer Rick Caruso prepares a proposal to build an outdoor mall adjacent to it.
Caruso, owner of the popular Grove shopping center in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District, has already challenged the entrenched 1.5-million-square-foot Glendale Galleria, owned by Chicago-based General Growth Properties, the second-biggest U.S. mall operator. Caruso was victorious in a voter referendum this month that will allow zoning changes for construction of The American at Brand open-air lifestyle center across from the Galleria.
The 250,000-square-foot expansion of the Santa Anita shopping center, marking its 30th anniversary, comes as development of enclosed malls has reached saturation. Lifestyle centers, mixed-use projects that aren’t anchored by department stores, have become the new retail shopping darling as competition intensifies and it becomes tougher to secure large parcels of land suitable for building.
The International Council of Shopping Malls estimated that there are 20 lifestyle centers being built in 2004, compared with three enclosed malls or large-center openings this year.
Providing entertainment and dining options is essential now, said Patrice Duker, spokeswoman for the ICSC. She said that it is important to “give consumers different formats to shop in depending on what time constraints they have.’’
Duker cautioned that the popularity of lifestyle centers doesn’t signal the end of traditional malls.
“When you look at the industry, each decade had a development that was the hot development center,” Duker said. “In the Seventies and Eighties it was enclosed malls; in the Nineties it was the power center, where you’d see a number of big-box retailers under one area; and in the 2000s you are seeing that people are developing more lifestyle centers because it’s the hot development trend.”
The new wing of Westfield’s Shoppingtown is considered to be a hybrid of an enclosed mall and a lifestyle center. It melds traditional retail space with a multiplex AMC cinema, restaurants with al fresco dining and an expansive glass-ceiling atrium, which bathes the new 12,000-square-foot food court in natural light. Light-colored woods, a combination of granite, marble and limestone flooring and live bamboo complete the contemporary feel of the food court centerpiece.
Westfield, which has interests in 124 shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S., operates 66 shopping centers in the U.S. The company has already opened three hybrid centers in the U.S.
While anchors for enclosed malls are typically department stores, the anchors for the Shoppingtown wing are the theater complex, Sport Chalet, Border’s Books Music Café and the first Los Angeles county location of Dave & Buster’s restaurant.
The entertainment component was missing,” said David Doll senior executive vice president of development for Westfield Arcadia, “We spend more money on restaurants and eating out now, and traditional malls have not really serviced that in the past.”
The Santa Anita mall had its last expansion in 1993. Westfield bought it in 1998 from TrizecHahan Development Corp. An expansion has been in the works since then.
The new wing, which will see the opening of 30 stores, including Frederick’s of Hollywood, American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch’s Hollister, is also inspiring existing retailers such as Victoria’s Secret, the Gap and Bebe to refresh their stores.
“When you reinvest, not only do you bring in a broader dimension of goods and services, you help reenergize the existing tenants, and ultimately they reinvest,” said Richard Green, president of Westfield America.
Shoppingtown has been bringing in $300 million a year, and is expected to reach $400 million with the addition, Green said. The mall is also projected to generate $400,000 to $500,000 in annual sales tax from new tenants, Arcadia city officials said.
Although ribbons have yet to be cut on this project, Green revealed that a second expansion is already in the works. Some people close to the project said it was an effort to proactively respond to Caruso’s yet-to-be unveiled proposal.
“These are live breathing properties, and we do have plans to do another expansion,” Green said. “Soon after the opening, we will be in the city with the next phase.”
Green said that the company had no comment on the Caruso project.
Caruso, who will present plans to the city in the next 30 days, is hoping for a 2007 opening for his lifestyle center which he estimates will be 700,000 to 800,000 square feet of retail space compared with the Grove’s 600,000 square feet.
“It’s a whole new dimension because the track provides so many different opportunities in terms of entertainment with the fountains and paddock,” said Caruso, who hopes to bring some of the racetrack’s legendary past to the development.
Caruso, who has a contract with Santa Anita Race Track owner Frank Stronach to develop the south parking lot next to the existing mall, wants to connect the track to his center and work with Westfield on linking the two malls.
“Our goal is that there’s some kind of connection [between the two malls] so people can walk back and forth,” he said. “It makes it a broader experience to have [the] customer go to the indoor mall and then experience [the] outdoor center.”
Asked whether he expects a Galleria-style showdown with Westfield, Caruso said that “Westfield has expressed some issues, but hopefully we’ll get through that and have a much more healthy relationship than with General Growth.”
Don Penman, Arcadia’s assistant city manager, said he is not anticipating a conflict because “the general plan has allowed for commercial development.’’
“I’m sure [Westfield] did their due diligence and knew there was always zoning to allow for commercial development,’’ he said. “Also, in contrast to Glendale, there is no city funding involved because it is not a redevelopment.”