Mall officials discuss decision to cut gym, cinema from Costco project

The vacant anchor that was formerly Sears at the Westfield Valencia Town Center is set to become a Costco. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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Westfield Valencia Town Center will still get a Costco with a gas station, but not the initially proposed luxury cinema and gym. Harsh economic impacts and the looming uncertainty for these sectors tied to the COVID-19 pandemic are to blame, mall officials said Tuesday. 

“I think clearly everyone is very hopeful that both of these industries survive and come out very strong after COVID (but) … nobody knows the length of how long the impact could last,” said Kimberly Brewer, senior vice president of development at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. 

Both the movie theater and fitness industries have struggled this year with monthslong closures and ever-changing safety restrictions. 

In 2019, for example, the domestic box office made its second-highest ticket sales at $11.4 billion, whereas the U.S. and Canada have garnered only $2 billion this year. In the Santa Clarita Valley, Regal Theaters’ two locations have remained closed since the onset of the pandemic under L.A. County guidelines, which have not indicated when cinemas could reopen. 

Former renderings show the Costco entrance, with a glimpse of the luxury cinema and fitness center on the top level that will no longer be built. Courtesy of Westfield Valencia Town Center

Gym trends have changed as many have opted for at-home options. A survey by investment banking firm Harrison Co. showed that as a result of the pandemic, $10 billion annually could leave the club sector for home fitness alternatives. 

“The difficult economic circumstances currently faced by gyms and health clubs will not disappear once the crisis ends,” according to Paul Byrne, a partner at Harrison Co., in a prepared statement. “Once stay-at-home guidelines are lifted, consumers will continue to work out at home in numbers far beyond anything we saw prior to the crisis.”

Brewer said the mall’s desire is to move the project, dubbed the Patios Connection project, quickly “to really start helping to reinvigorate the shopping center.” 

Santa Clarita City Council members reviewed Tuesday the modifications, which ultimately shrunk the project’s overall size from 101,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet, and changed its architecture. The development will cut out the 34,000-square-foot gym, the 32,000-square-foot cinema and the Costco rooftop parking deck, as well as reduce the amount of retail space being added. New retail space and the expansion of the existing Canyon Santa Clarita music venue will take place, officials said. 

In addition to more than 15 comments in support of the changes, a business owner near the project site said he was concerned with potential traffic issues on Citrus Street that could come with the addition of the gas station. City staff indicated that mitigation efforts are designed to allow better movement for drivers without restricting left and right turns out of nearby businesses, among other benefits. 

Council members said a second Costco in Santa Clarita is needed and expressed satisfaction in learning that Westfield would still make all of the traffic mitigations that were part of the larger project. 

“(The mall) desperately needs Costco and I think Costco needs them because the Costco in Canyon Country is wonderful, but it’s really jammed and the parking is jammed and having two is not too much — it’s a good thing,” said Councilwoman Laurene Weste. 

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