Remaking Manhattan Village has proven no simple feat, considering the mall's owner first released initial plans several years ago and has made various revisions as it works to come up with the right redesign.
The goal is to expand the shopping center at Sepulveda Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue so mall owner RREEF can retain and attract new tenants, and at the same time satisfy concerns from nearby neighbors.
"What we're proposing is to build on what we've got," Mark English, a RREEF executive, told the city's Planning Commission this week. He said the performance of existing retailers at the mall "varies widely" and noted "gaps" in the current lineup of stores, including teen-oriented retailers.
Among the company's proposed changes is the addition of a "pedestrian-friendly" village that would occupy the central part of the property, an expansion of the Macy's store at the mall's north end, and the redevelopment of the northwest corner, which involves tearing down the existing Fry's Electronics store.
The project proposed in three phases envisions 194,644 square feet of new space available for lease.
A hang-up early on involved parking, with residents living just east of Manhattan Village mall voicing concerns about a plan to build a parking structure near their homes, outside the Macy's men's store at the mall's south end. That prompted RREEF to shift parking into two structures situated
Still, questions remained over whether subterranean parking would be an even better solution.
But that doesn't seem to be the case, RREEF representatives told the planning panel this week.
In fact, an environmental consultant recommended against doing underground construction on a site that up until 1976 housed Chevron crude oil reservoirs. The oil-stained soil was mixed with clean soil and buried on site, about 4 to 5 feet beneath a clean soil cap.
Jeremy Squire, a senior engineer with Murex Environmental, told the panel that RREEF wants to avoid extensive exposure to underground contaminants, which would mean leaving the soil in place.
"I am telling them not to put these garages underground," he added.
And so that seems to bring RREEF back to its more recent parking proposal, which envisions adding two parking decks on opposite sides of a new phase of the mall called "The Village Shops." Here, RREEF would tear down a cluster of retailers that includes a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and See's candy store and add 60,000 square feet of net new retail in a pedestrian-friendly "village. "
But English told commissioners the company refined that parking plan based on concerns about aesthetics, and that the parking decks were positioned too close to Sepulveda Boulevard.
The company has now suggested elongating the south deck, pushing it back from Sepulveda and relocating two buildings so that they partially block the facade - an option that seemed to satisfy some of the commissioners and several residents in attendance.
"I think you've made a lot of adjustments to satisfy as many as you can," Commissioner Paul Gross said at the Wednesday night meeting. "Certainly, tonight I heard from the public a very different tone. ... I didn't hear much criticism out there. "
Even still, the panel wants at least one more shot at reviewing parking and other redevelopment-related concerns before passing the plan on to the City Council.
The commission is expected to take up the issue again on April 24, at which point the city also expects a final environmental impact report on the project will be available.