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Simi Council Expected to OK City's 1st Mall

September 29, 2003|Lynne Barnes | Times Staff Writer

The $300-million Simi Valley Town Center, a massive retail and housing project whose centerpiece is an upscale regional shopping mall, appears headed for approval by the City Council tonight.

The long-awaited development, the largest such retail project in the city's history, is seen as an ambitious step in Simi Valley's evolution from a suburban outpost to a more self-sufficient and prosperous city.

"This is the crown jewel of retail for Simi Valley," said City Councilman Glen Becerra. "We've been talking about the mall since I was a child. We've been waiting for a long time, so our feeling is that you're either going to build something nicer than anything around us or don't build it at all."

The project, which could break ground by spring, would be built on 129 acres of rolling hills north of the Ronald Reagan Freeway between 1st Street and Erringer Road.

The first phase is expected to open by October 2005 with a 625,000-square-foot outdoor mall, 235,000 square feet of retail space for big-box merchants and a 500-unit luxury apartment complex, said developer John Gilchrist of Corti Gilchrist Partnership in San Diego.

Eventually, the mall is expected to grow to 840,000 square feet, with two or three major department stores, including Macy's and Robinsons-May, about 120 smaller specialty stores and both fast-food and sit-down restaurants. Macy's and Robinson-May have signed letters of intent to move into the mall.

Plans call for the mall to be configured in a "town center" design that would serve as a gathering place for residents in a community that has no downtown.

Officials said the lushly landscaped open-air mall would be similar to the Promenade in Westlake Village and Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

An adjoining Town and Country center would offer 445,000 square feet of big-box retail space and may include a 140-room hotel along with the apartment complex.

The project was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission last week and is not expected to face tough opposition from the City Council. A public hearing on the project's environmental impact report is scheduled at 6:30 tonight.

Mayor Bill Davis said the mall would help keep the city on a firm financial footing by making it more competitive with other neighboring shopping centers for local sales tax dollars.

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Times staff writer Gregory W. Griggs contributed to this report.

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