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MainPlace Suit Seeks to Block Planned Mall

Retail: Orange City Council approval of $150-million project at site of The City is challenged on environmental grounds.


SANTA ANA — Owners of the MainPlace mall asked an Orange County Superior Court judge Tuesday to prohibit a competitor from starting construction on a proposed $150-million mega-mall less than two miles away in Orange.

The suit, filed in Santa Ana by Delaware-based Urban Retail Properties Inc., alleges that officials in Orange ignored or underestimated the potential environmental impact when they approved a developer's plan to build a huge mall on land now occupied by The City, a largely vacant shopping center.

Shopping center executives and city officials weren't available to comment on the suit.

Washington-based Mills Corp., which builds and operates centers that feature discount retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, plans to knock down most of The City mall and replace it with a state-of-the-art, 771,000-square-foot center.

The Orange City Council approved plans for the project on April 25 and agreed to contribute as much as $25 million in municipal redevelopment funds for the project.

The 27-page lawsuit echoes concerns that attorneys for MainPlace/Santa Ana raised when the Orange council, following a Planning Commission recommendation, approved the proposed project.

MainPlace's suit argues that city officials should have required Mills Corp. to complete a full environmental report on the project's impact on air quality, traffic patterns and nearby neighborhoods. Mills Corp. executives have maintained that their plan addresses environmental concerns and that the project isn't large enough to require a costly environmental study.

The City, which opened in 1970, has seen its fortunes dwindle in recent years as it lost both retailers and customers to MainPlace, which opened its doors in the early 1980s. Only a handful of The City's restaurants and stores are still open, and city officials view the Mills project as a viable way to rejuvenate the area.

Mills in November will open a 1.7-million-square-foot mall in Ontario that will include 200 outlet and specialty stores, a large food court and a 30-screen cineplex.

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