By The Signal Editorial Board
For the longest time, many local residents used to lament the fact that there was no mall in the Santa Clarita Valley. In the 1980s, at a time when “going to the mall” was a favored pastime memorialized in the films and music of the era, SCV residents traipsed “over the hill” in droves, visiting malls in places like Northridge, Glendale, Topanga and even Beverly Hills.
Finally, in 1992, with much fanfare, the Valencia Town Center mall made its debut, and local shoppers rejoiced. Even then, the mall was envisioned as more than just “a mall.” Call it marketing or whatever you want, but when the mall was dubbed “town center,” it was a reflection of the developers’ vision that the mall would be more than just a place to buy sweaters, housewares and shoes. It would be a gathering place, a hub of activity, a venue for dining and entertainment.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, and the mall — now the Westfield Valencia Town Center — has become exactly that. The valley has grown into a thriving city of nearly 300,000 people, and the town center is the valley’s busiest, though not the only, “gathering place.”
And, of course, now as then, there remain those in town who would prefer that the mall site was still occupied by onion and carrot fields. But the community has changed and grown, and local residents no longer need to go “over the hill” to shop, dine and be entertained. Nor do they want to.
Tonight, the town center is set to take the next step in its evolution, and it’s a welcome step indeed.
The Santa Clarita Planning Commission tonight is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and consider approval of The Patios Connection Project, a significant $100 million overhaul of the east end of the mall property, the former location one of the mall’s original anchors, Sears, which closed in 2018 and now seems a distant memory.
It’s a terrific opportunity for Santa Clarita, in terms of economic growth, sales tax revenue, and amenities for a Santa Clarita populace that increasingly looks at gathering places — like the mall, Old Town Newhall and, coming soon, Vista Canyon on the east side of town — as more than just shopping destinations. They’re an integral part of the local quality of life.
The Patios Connection Project itself is a reflection of how malls in general, and Santa Clarita in particular, have changed. In place of the 128,000-square-foot building that formerly housed Sears, the project proposes to build:
• A 153,930-square-foot Costco, with rooftop parking and a 30-pump gas station.
• A 34,185-square-foot upscale health and fitness center.
• A 32,000-square-foot cinema, planned as a “dining-and-movie” experience, the first of its kind in the SCV.
• 7,434 square-feet of retail/restaurant uses.
• A 2,138-square-foot expansion of the existing Canyon music venue.
It all results in a net gain of 101,129 square feet of commercial space, plus the creation of new synergy and improved pedestrian and parking access to all areas of the mall, in particular its popular Patios section.
It’s going to be a great economic engine.
As with any project of this size, there will be detractors. Yes, there are issues to address, notably including traffic flow. But the project is worth it, and deserves approval for its many benefits to the city and community at large.
Building on the theme of an evolving “town center,” this project is designed to enable residents to do much more than just any one thing in one place. It recognizes the active, energetic nature of the community and creates a place where you can work out, meet friends for dinner and a movie, enjoy live music, shop for anything you might need, and gas up the car on the way home.
Westfield says the project is designed to create “an elevated, relevant and modern experience to unify the entire property.”
We believe it will do just that.
The new Costco location would become the second in the SCV, on the opposite side of the valley from the existing one. Its design is envisioned to seamlessly integrate with that of the overall mall property, and there’s a precedent for success: Westfield has already successfully partnered with Costco at other high-end centers, including The Village at Topanga in Woodland Hills.
The project will also allow for greater utilization of the north side parking area, which today is often mostly vacant while mallgoers compete for parking at other busier areas of the mall, like the Patios and Town Center Drive.
Also planned is a “grand pedestrian promenade” and escalator that will connect the north side to the Patios, improving access and the availability of desirable parking.
The developer has worked with the city to include traffic flow improvements in the project, including additional and new turning lanes along Valencia Boulevard, Magic Mountain Parkway and Citrus Street.
What it means to the economy? When completed, it creates an additional 486 full-time-equivalent jobs and is expected to generate more than $6 million in annual revenue to the city of Santa Clarita. (The Town Center already houses approximately 180 businesses and more than 1,000 jobs.) During construction, it creates 900 full-time-equivalent jobs and more than $180 million in economic benefit.
Santa Clarita is no longer the sleepy suburb whose residents must go “over the hill” for shopping, dining and entertainment. The Patios Connection Project is the latest step in that evolution — and it’s a welcome one indeed.