City Council OKs framework for mall development  

A flier from the city of Santa Clarita's outreach effort in April 2023, when officials were looking for input on the Town Center Specific Plan, an area that includes Valencia Town Center. Courtesy city of Santa Clarita
The Town Center Specific Plan covers an area that includes Valencia Town Center. Courtesy city of Santa Clarita

The Santa Clarita City Council on Tuesday gave its unanimous first consent to a city staff plan intended to provide a “flexible, place-making framework” for the new owners of the mall, Centennial, a Dallas-based developer. 

City planners have been researching and conducting outreach on their plans for more than a year. 

The Town Center Specific Plan is meant to provide guidelines for development that encourage a developer to build a balanced mix of housing and commercial units in the area, based on what residents have said they want for the area. 

“It’s really not good to have 111 acres in the center of your city that just isn’t vibrant and exciting, and seems to be sludgy and slowing down and really having problems,” said Councilwoman Laurene Weste, thanking the city staff for its efforts, which began in 2022. “And so this is a really exciting opportunity to see a company come in that can work through a plan that will take years and start recreating a very special dynamic place that severely suffered due to the many years of shutdown with COVID, severely suffered, as well as many other buildings and areas in our valley.” 

The goal is to create a framework that outlasts current marketing trends and remains useful to the city for decades, according to Dave Peterson, the city’s senior planner who led the project. The city also heard that residents would like to see a balanced mix and a destination retail center not unlike The Irvine Spectrum Center. 

One of the outcomes studied, for example, looked at the development of approximately 2,000 apartment/condominium units, with a “strong encouragement” for the developer to make 20% of them affordable housing, which is part of meeting the area’s state-mandated housing element. The plan also looks to bring a net of about 600,000 square feet of commercial space. 

To that end, Nick Bartholomew, director of development for Centennial, expressed gratitude to the city on Tuesday for its efforts to create guidelines for one of its newest properties. 

Referring to Centennial as an integrated owner-operator that has developed a national portfolio of 21 million square feet, he said Centennial’s passion was “transforming yesterday’s suburban malls into tomorrow’s dominant mixed-use destinations.” 

“I would like to take this opportunity to express Centennial support for the Town Center Specific Plan as well as offer our gratitude and thanks to the Santa Clarita City Council, Planning Commission and city staff for their leadership and diligence in undertaking this holistic and forward-looking initiative,” he told the City Council on Tuesday. 

In a phone interview Wednesday, Bartholomew declined to say whether housing or commercial development would come first or when those plans would be announced, saying only it would happen when the city finishes its process. 

He also declined to state why Centennial was holding off on any announcement or why the company was grateful for the city’s efforts at telling the developer what it should do with its $195 million purchase. 

Centennial announced the closure of escrow on its purchase of the Valencia mall in September, which was made from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, after the French multinational real estate developer defaulted in January 2023. 

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