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Caruso to Plan Playa Vista Town Center

Pedestrian-friendly project will be a commercial, residential component of massive development's second phase.


Officials of the massive Playa Vista project under development south of Marina del Rey and developer Rick Caruso have signed an agreement under which Caruso will plan, design and most likely develop a 300,000-square-foot town center on a 23-acre site at Playa Vista.

The Caruso project will be a combination commercial and residential component of Playa Vista's second phase, with construction beginning within 18 months, Caruso said.

Work is underway on the first phase of Playa Vista, which will include as many as 3,246 new homes, apartments and condominiums, plus office space and other commercial uses.

The town center will be a central feature of Playa Vista's second phase and will include shopping, restaurants, office and residential space and a small hotel, according to a joint announcement by Playa Vista and Caruso Affiliated Holdings.

The Playa Vista town center will be a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use urban village integrating main street retail with housing and civic uses, said Tom Paradise, Playa Vista vice president of operations.

In announcing the choice of Caruso, Peter Denniston, president of Playa Vista, cited the developer's experience in planning such town centers as the Commons at Calabasas, the Promenade at Westlake and Encino Marketplace.

At Playa Vista, Caruso "will create a place that offers what our residents need, as well as serve the neighboring communities," Denniston said.

Caruso has designed a number of projects that blend community services such as supermarkets and drugstores with entertainment, fashion and restaurants.

Caruso, chief executive of Santa Monica-based Caruso Affiliated Holdings, said his firm is working on both the design of the Playa Vista town center and a leasing plan that will help select the types of tenants the owners and developers hope to attract.

Although Caruso and Playa Vista have not reached a formal agreement for Caruso's firm to develop the town center, he said his firm has first right of refusal to do so. Both Caruso and Denniston said they expect Caruso to be the developer.

The design team will be headed by Dave Williams, vice president of architecture for Caruso Affiliated Holdings. Sandra Yavitz, vice president of leasing and acquisitions at Caruso, will develop the leasing plan and mix of retail tenants.

Architectural firm Elkus Manfredi of Boston will work with Williams to create the master plan and concepts for the center.

Among Caruso projects now under development is the Grove at Farmers Market, a 640,000-square-foot retail and entertainment center on 20 acres adjacent to historic Farmers Market in Los Angeles.

Existing buildings have been razed and grading is scheduled to begin this week, according to Caruso, who said construction is slated for completion in March 2002.

The announcement of Caruso's selection included comments from Los Angeles City Council member Ruth Galanter, often an opponent of the Playa Vista project, who called the choice of Caruso "a welcome addition" to the development.

Galanter cited Caruso's reputation for working with local communities to gain support for his projects.

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