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Center for Rancho Cucamonga

California

October 27, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

Victoria Gardens, a $285-million outdoor shopping center, will open Thursday in Rancho Cucamonga as developers attempt to create a downtown for the suburban Inland Empire city.

Forest City Development California Inc. and Lewis Retail Centers built the 1.3-million-square-foot project on 147 acres near the intersection of Interstate 15 and Foothill Boulevard. It's laid out over several blocks that surround a town square ringed by shops that are topped with offices.

The project is the latest in a trend among commercial builders that create mini downtowns for cities that lack them. Town Center Drive in Santa Clarita and Birch Street Promenade in Brea are smaller examples of the town center concept that dates to the early 1990s and Reston Town Center in Virginia.

"They do not have a place which you can call a center for Rancho Cucamonga," said Brian Jones, president of Forest City California, a unit of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises. "We're creating a commercial heart."

The new center is an upgrade in shopping options for the burgeoning Inland Empire, said real estate analyst Greg Andrews of Green Street Advisors Inc. "Their lineup of tenants looks really impressive," he said.

Anchors include Macy's, Robinsons-May, JCPenney and a 12-screen AMC movie theater complex. The Inland Empire's first Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn will be there, along with restaurants PF Chang's, Yard House and California Pizza Kitchen.

The center hopes to appeal to more free-spending customers than those who patronize nearby Ontario Mills, a massive value-oriented center in Ontario, Andrews said. Also likely to feel a sting of competition is Montclair Plaza, a regional mall operated by General Growth Properties in Montclair.

Victoria Gardens has more than 30 buildings on 12 blocks broken up with parks, gardens and fountains. It has six entrances and five themed areas: nightlife and entertainment; fashion and home decor; children and family; a food court; and the town square. A free trolley will begin service Monday.

The center is expected to generate $5 million annually in new tax payments and create 3,000 jobs.

It is also expected to serve as a catalyst for development on surrounding land.

A Sears Grand will open nearby Thursday. It will be the first such store in California for Illinois-based Sears. Sears Grand offers a mix of traditional Sears products and such extras as milk, baby formula and a plant nursery.

Also opening nearby is Victoria Gateway Center, which will debut next month with large retailers including Circuit City, REI, Beverages & More and Men's Wearhouse.

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