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Nordstrom Joins Project Next to Farmers Market

July 21, 1999|JESUS SANCHEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Signaling a revival of retail development in central Los Angeles, Nordstrom Inc. said Tuesday that it plans to open a 120,000-square-foot department store next to the historic Farmers Market.

The department store chain will join a collection of other well-known retailers--including giant flagship stores for Banana Republic, Crate & Barrel and Gap--that have tentatively agreed to lease space in the Grove at Farmers Market, a $100-million, open-air mall that will rise in the Fairfax district.

The announcement is a major coup for developer Rick Caruso, who unveiled plans for the center in May 1998. The Grove's retail lineup will make it a major competitor for the affluent shoppers courted by the nearby Beverly Center and Century City Shopping Center, according to retail and real estate specialists.

"There is certainly enough disposable income" to support the new shopping center, said Brent F. Howell, a retail leasing expert at real estate broker CB Richard Ellis.

Nordstrom spokeswoman Brooke White said the new outlet planned at the Grove will be "a bit smaller [than an average Nordstrom] . . . but it suits the needs of that specific market."

A decade ago, Nordstrom had signed up to be part of a much larger, 2-million-square-foot mall and commercial project at the site on 3rd Street east of Fairfax Avenue, which was eventually drastically reduced in the face of fierce neighborhood opposition. The region's economic recession put the development on hold until Caruso emerged last year with an even smaller proposal totaling 650,000 square feet.

The original Farmers Market, which is owned by the family-run A.F. Gilmore Co., will be left intact under the current plans.

Renee Weitzer, chief planning deputy for City Council member John Ferraro, who represents the area, said she has received only a few calls from opponents concerned about increased traffic. She said Caruso has agreed to add traffic signals, widen some streets and undertake other improvements to help alleviate congestion. He also plans to build a parking garage.

The other major retailers at the Grove have plans for large, two-story outlets. The Gap, for example, will locate all of its retail brands--including the first Gap Body, a skin-care product store--in a single 26,050-square-foot space. Banana Republic will open a 30,400-square-foot store that will include a new line of home decor items.

The center will also be home to Pacific Theaters' first Arc Light multiplex, which will feature high-tech screening equipment, reserved seating and cocktail lounges.

Tuesday's announcement includes leases for about half the space at the Grove. The rest will be devoted to retailers that are new to the area or those with a strong local flavor, said Caruso, president of Santa Monica-based Caruso Affiliated Holdings. He plans to open the center in 2001.

The Grove is one of several new retail and entertainment centers that have been proposed or are under construction in Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood and other central portions of Los Angeles.

"This could be a very powerful development and there's a huge market there," said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County. "It could start to alter [the retail landscape] in Los Angeles."

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