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Work on Oxnard shopping center resumes after a three-year hiatus

The Collection at RiverPark, an outdoor mall reminiscent of a small-town business district, stalled in 2009. With retailers expanding again, the developers decided to restart construction.

March 13, 2012|By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
  • The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard is intended to seem like a village, with public gathering places that have such features as fountains, sculptures and a childrens play area.
The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard is intended to seem like a village,… (Shea Properties )

In a sign of confidence in the region's recovering economy, developers have resumed construction of a $150-million shopping center in Oxnard.

Work on the Collection at RiverPark, a large outdoor mall intended to look like a small-town shopping district, was halted in 2009 when the nation was in a recession. Consumers closed their wallets and retailers canceled expansion plans.

"There was a lot of fear in the markets in 2008 and 2009, and that has gone away," said Colm Macken, chief executive of Aliso Viejo developer Shea Properties. "We are seeing employment growth, and retail sales are increasing."

Most important for Shea: Retailers feel confident enough to sign leases for new stores.

"Fashion tenants and a lot of other tenants we want are back from the sidelines," Macken said.

At 600,000 square feet, the Collection at RiverPark has a lot of space to fill. There will be about 90 shops and restaurants in addition to anchors Target, Whole Foods Market, REI and Century Theatres.

With commitments from retailers to rent about 40% of the space, Shea and financial partner Oaktree Capital Management felt confident enough to resume construction, Macken said.

Low-price leader Target didn't pause for the recession and completed its store at RiverPark in July. Next to open will be a 16-screen Century Theatres complex in November. Also coming in the fall are Starbucks Coffee, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Panera Bread, Massage Envy and Color Me Mine.

There will also be 60,000 square feet of offices for rent above stores on the main street. Grocer Whole Foods and outdoor outfitter REI are expected to open in the spring.

The Collection at RiverPark lies along the 101 Freeway between the Vineyard Avenue and Oxnard Boulevard exits and takes its name from the nearby Santa Clara River, Macken said.

It will be an outdoor center similar to Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, where visitors can park on the street. The mall is intended to seem like a village, with public gathering places that have such features as fountains, sculpture and a children's play area. Local artists have been hired to paint murals.

Most work on the shopping center will be completed by the end of the year, Macken said.

"We certainly would have liked to open the center earlier, but let's face it, times have been difficult for all of us," he said.

The construction at RiverPark reflects a national trend, said Jesse Tron, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, an industry trade group. Some stalled shopping centers are being finished, and other malls are being expanded or upgraded.

"There are still not a lot breaking ground," Tron said.

Several national retail chains are back in expansion mode, he said. "During the recession they were closing stores. Now the opposite is the case."

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