Santa Clarita officials are preparing for the likelihood that the days of the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall, a fixture on the city’s west side for the past 30 years, are numbered.
And the city wants to know what the next chapter looks like for the intersections of Magic Mountain and McBean parkways, as well as Valencia Boulevard, an area the city calls Town Center.
In what is likely another sign of the times in the national struggling retail market, local officials have learned the Valencia mall is likely to suffer the fate of a number of shopping centers throughout the country in the coming months.
In a few short years, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has gone from announcing a $100-million investment in the mall that would bring a full-service Costco and a luxury theater to a markedly different plan, as indicated by a city advertisement in Saturday’s Signal announcing an upcoming public meeting in which the city will collect public input on options for the future of Town Center.
Yessenia Carrasco, assistant general manager of the Westfield Valencia Town Center, said the company did not have a statement regarding its future plans when reached by phone Friday. She referred all questions to a corporate email address that did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.
“It is two different things,” said Jason Crawford, director of community development for the city of Santa Clarita, referring to an ad that asks for the public to “help us craft a long-term vision for a reimagined Town Center in our city.”
The area identified on the map covers a number of properties, including the mall, the former site of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the Valencia Library and the courthouse, the Regal movie theater and Town Center Drive.
“One is yes, Westfield has decided that they are getting rid of all of their United States’ property, so they are either selling or walking away from them, as we’ve seen a few examples of,” Crawford said Friday in a phone interview. “So, I expect that there will be a new owner of the mall and that that will probably happen sometime soon. It could be in the next month or two.”
URW announced the sale of Connecticut and New York properties for $193 million in January. The Village in the San Fernando Valley was sold to the Kroenke Organization for $325 million. “URW’s flagship property in the area, Westfield Topanga, was not a part of the transaction,” according to a Dec. 27 news release.
“This transaction is another step in the streamlining of our U.S. regional asset portfolio as part of our wider plan to radically reduce our financial exposure to the U.S.,” according to a statement attributed to Fabrice Mouchel, CFO of URW, announcing the San Fernando Valley sale, “and demonstrates the continued investor interest in high-quality assets with strong operating performance.”
In January, The Signal reported that URW defaulted on a $195 million loan connected with its Valencia property, citing a regional real estate outlet. The company issued a statement at the time that noted the company was working with its lenders.
The city’s purpose, Crawford said, is to let the next developer that might take over the property have an idea of what the city wants to have there, based on residents’ input.
The first public meeting is scheduled 6 to 8 p.m. May 4 in the Carl Boyer Conference Room at City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd. — across the street from the mall.
“What we’re trying to do is create a vision for what that area should be,” Crawford said. “And then by putting it in a specific plan, it creates a framework for what the community’s vision is, and basically … makes it a more expedited process for somebody to come in and build what that vision is.”
The concept is one city planners and business officials have been discussing for about a year, he said, noting the city wanted to be proactive about the area for a number of reasons.
“This is an important area in the community. It is our town center, and we want to make sure that what gets built there is what the community wants,” he said, adding the area is zoned for mixed use, which could include residential and commercial plans. “But also, we have a state that keeps wanting to add more houses and add more apartments on any property that they can make that happen on, and so we want to … be proactive and make sure that any development there is balanced.”