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Shoppers Get Preview of Simi Valley's New Mall

A department store charity event raises $120,000 as 15,000 people visit the center.

October 27, 2005|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

During the second of two preview shopping days this week, Simi Valley Town Center drew more than 15,000 people and exceeded its expectations of charity fundraising by more than 20%.

Hundreds of people gathered near the entrances of the mall's two department stores early Wednesday to be among the first to shop at the first regional mall to open in Ventura County in more than two decades.

Hoping to generate buzz among consumers before today's official mall opening and a big community party tonight in the mall's center courtyard, executives from Robinsons-May and Macy's held back-to-back ribbon-cutting events Wednesday. Both stores had preview shopping for four hours Monday and for the whole day Tuesday.

Marching bands from Simi Valley and Royal high schools were on hand to pump up the crowd and add to the festive mood as local politicians welcomed the two department stores, which anchor either end of the $300-million open-air mall.

"Is this a great day, or what? How long have we been waiting for this?" county Supervisor Judy Mikels, a Simi Valley resident, asked near the entrance of the 140,000-square-foot Robinsons-May. "I unabashedly love to shop and I am thrilled to see this here."

Mayor Paul Miller said the mall rounds out Simi Valley's retail landscape and will help the city staunch the flow of consumer dollars to competing malls in Northridge, Canoga Park and Thousand Oaks.

"I thought this day would never come," Miller said. "No more trips to [Thousand Oaks]. No more trips to the San Fernando Valley. We can shop here now."

Simi Valley Town Center -- designed by F+A Architects to look like a hillside Italian village -- will have half a dozen restaurants and a food court to lure customers to more than 120 clothing, accessory and other retail stores lining a trellised walkway. The Pasadena-based architectural firm also designed Glendale Galleria, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and the ongoing renovation of Westside Pavilion in West Los Angeles.

Beyond the western end of the main mall area is a 300,000-square-foot so-called power center, with big-box retailers Lowe's hardware, Best Buy and Babies R Us. More than 70% of the stores are expected to be open this weekend, with most of the remainder set to start sales before Christmas.

Craig M. Israel, president and chief executive of Robinsons-May, said the company had a successful charity preview day Tuesday, when more than 15,000 people showed up after buying $5 tickets from scores of local charities. Israel said the store rang up about $820,000 in sales its first day and surpassed its goal of local donations by raising more than $120,000 for charity.

Macy's plans to hold a community shopping day Nov. 5, with proceeds from the sale of $10 tickets going to local charities. The tickets offer discounts on purchases for the day.

Mikels said local leaders appreciate the added revenue the Simi Valley Town Center will generate for the city. Based on anticipated first-year sales, Simi Valley estimates its revenue will increase more than $3.5 million from added sales and property taxes.

The money will help pay for more city services, uniformed police officers and enhanced street maintenance, Mikels said.

Elsewhere in the mall, construction workers in hard hats scurried about Wednesday installing glass on storefronts, placing awnings over entrances and setting tile on an outdoor fireplace along the center walkway.

"I've been opening malls for some 30 years and, trust me, this one is in good shape and will be ready" by today, said Wayne Finley, whose firm, along with Corti Gilchrist Partnership, both based in San Diego, and their major partner Forest City Enterprises, is helping coordinate construction of the mall. Forest City, based in Cleveland, is responsible for ongoing operation and management.

City Manager Mike Sedell, who stayed in touch with City Hall throughout the morning, received assurance that a replacement traffic signal at the 1st Street offramp would be installed by Saturday. Until then, shoppers from Moorpark and Thousand Oaks must make a short detour or exit at Erringer Road to reach the mall.

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