A new anchor tenant, parking structure and two-story mall wing are in store for Torrance's giant, but outdated Del Amo Fashion Center.
The plans were contained in a "minor modification permit" of a 15-year-old previously approved redevelopment scheme. Community Development Director Jeff Gibson signed off on the new permit Oct. 31.
His administrative approval means the updated plan requires no additional scrutiny by the Planning Commission or a public hearing before construction can begin. Gibson determined the plans for the mall were not significantly different from previous approved proposals and, therefore, no review was necessary.
No timetable for the mall revamping was given, but the existing entitlements for redevelopment of the property expire in May 2013.
Gibson, the planner responsible for the mall property, Mayor Frank Scotto and officials with mall owner Simon Property Group did not return calls seeking comment.
All parties associated with the redevelopment have provided limited information since Scotto announced in September 2010 that the mall's owners were prepared to spend $200 million to update the dowdy structure that was once the world's largest shopping center.
A February presentation by an official from Indianapolis-based Simon provided few specific details, while saying work could begin as early as next year. Promised community meetings have never been held while the developer conducts negotiations
Still, the updated permit provides the clearest picture yet of Simon's redevelopment plans for the mall, a multiyear endeavor starting at its north end.
In February, Simon officials said the mall could see as many as three new anchor tenants, but it appears those plans have been scaled back.
Instead, just one new unspecified anchor tenant in a two-story, 140,000-square-foot building is now contemplated north of the existing mall.
That would connect to an adjacent parking garage built on the below-level parking lot where Armed Forces Day exhibits are located every May. Mall officials had previously proposed building another anchor store there, despite the lot's poor visibility.
The new 1,800-space multilevel parking structure would replace as many as three previously approved parking garages.
Plans also call for leveling the one-story portion of the mall north of the northernmost Macy's and replacing it with a two-level structure. That western part of the mall now includes a Starbucks, Disney Store, Aeropostale and assorted other retailers.
But surface parking would replace the small west wing that includes Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ and an adjacent Mexican restaurant.
An unspecified number of outlying restaurant pads will sit along Hawthorne Boulevard between Fashion Way and Carson Street.
Lastly, the 52-year-old Del Amo Medical Center would also be leveled for surface parking. That two-story, 57,775-square-foot building houses about 60 offices for doctors and other medical professionals.
A tenant who requested anonymity said the building either sold last month or is in the process of being acquired by Simon, as city officials confirmed in the minor modification permit.
It's long been owned by original mall owner The Torrance Co., which maintains an office in the building.
No one responded to a message that was left seeking comment.
The leases of long-standing tenants expire in 2013, which would be consistent with Simon's redevelopment plans, while others are on month-to-month leases, the tenant said.
Still, tenants were unaware of the latest permit filing by Simon; some are unsure even where to send their monthly rent given its apparent pending sale.
"We have to plan for what's going to happen," said the tenant.
The structure adjacent to the medical building that houses a Chipotle, Charles Schwab and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will remain.
The city is separately exploring building a hotel with conference space on the mall property, likely on the fenced-off acreage at Madrona Avenue and Fashion Way once owned by bankrupt SunCal Co.
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