Malibu may never become the "seaside village" that some developers and planners envision for the community, but it won't be for lack of trying.
This week, the anchor store in an elaborately decorated, 100,000-square-foot shopping center opened in the town's Civic Center, unveiling an architectural style that the developer hopes will set the tone for future development in Malibu.
Developer Roy Crummer called the new Hughes Market, the largest tenant at the Malibu Colony Plaza, "the nicest market in California." One community activist called the market's early California-mission architectural style obsolete. But in Malibu, where almost anything new is controversial, that's almost akin to a stamp of approval.
"This ought to be a prototype of how a development mixes in with a residential neighborhood," Crummer said as he toured the site this week. "This center is long overdue."
The shopping center, located across from the multimillion-dollar homes in the exclusive Malibu Colony, will include about two dozen retail stores, a coffee shop and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's newest restaurant.
The $12-million mall is expected to be completed by mid-November. The shopping center will include a stationery store, a drug store, a florist, a clothing store, a dry cleaners and several other shops.
The center, adorned with a mission-tile roof, carved-stone columns from Guadalajara, semicircular brick arches, iron lanterns, two large water fountains and surrounded by palm trees and bird of paradise plants, was approved by California Coastal Commission in December, 1985.
At the time it was approved, no one spoke out against the project, but it has been criticized recently by residents who wanted to integrate it into an existing shopping center across Pacific Coast Highway and keep the site along Webb Way and Malibu Road as open space.
In addition, critics say, the shopping center will add more cars to the traffic-choked Pacific Coast Highway.
"The real concern isn't that particular shopping center but that it's a symbol of the helter-skelter development that goes on out here," said Larry Wan, president of the Malibu Township Council. "From a construction point of view, he's done a pretty good job of fitting in with the rest of the area, but the main concern is how it will affect the traffic on PCH."
Crummer counters that the mall will reduce the numbers of out-of-town trips taken by residents to purchase goods and gives Malibu a "first-rate" shopping center in a community that badly needed one.
"It's not like we have a 3-story regional mall here," Crummer said. "This is a class project. We could have cut corners, but we didn't. This is not something that I'm going to have to apologize for. If I lived in the homes in the colony, I would love to be able to walk across the street to do my shopping or go to a Wolfgang Puck restaurant."
Crummer, whose family has owned the Malibu Colony Center for more that 30 years and has extensive holdings in the 92-acre Civic Center area and in Trancas, based the center on the architectural styles of the nearby Adamson Museum and another Spanish-style mall he visited in Arizona. The shopping center is the first full-scale mall built in Malibu since 1972.
To make room for the new center, Crummer closed the popular Colony coffee shop and pharmacy, a vintage, '50s-style building built by his father. However, Crummer has decided to keep the building, remodel it into a '50s-style drive-in and move it across the highway.
"We're trying to do this in such a way that it's going to enhance the community," Crummer said. "I mean, how offensive is a supermarket?"