Retail Traffic

In-filling with the La Mirada Towne Center

When Fred Stemmler first saw La Mirada Towne Center, a regional mall in La Mirada, Calif., he decided to keep an eye on it.

As president of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Hopkins Real Estate Group, Stemmler has carried out approximately 50 urban in-fill redevelopment projects since the early 1980s. To his experienced eye, the La Mirada mall wasn't going to last.

"It was built in the 1960s," Stemmler says. "It had poor interstate access and limped along for years, never really satisfying the needs of regional mall customers."

Other problems plagued the property. For example, a nearby bowling alley attracted rowdy crowds, creating persistent problems for the neighborhood. Eventually, Hopkins acquired the 72-acre mall property in a partnership with the La Mirada Redevelopment Agency and set out to redevelop.

"We drew a line down the center of the 72-acre site and took on a strategic alliance partner who would build housing on half the site," Stemmler says. "On the other half of the site, we designed a different retail concept tailored to a local neighborhood."

The result is the La Mirada Towne Center, a main street shopping center design with a grocery store, health club, big box toy store, movie and civic theaters and other local retail concepts.

Hopkins also bought the bowling alley across the street, tore it down and sold the property to a local builder of townhouse developments.

Along the way, Hopkins called upon the redevelopment authority and city to smooth out the wrinkles. For example, all of the tenants in the original mall had to be relocated. Approximately 90 percent took a generous relocation fee and moved.

About 10%, however, refused to go. The city, acting as a partner, forced the issue on the basis of eminent domain.

City officials also helped move the permitting process forward efficiently, Stemmler says.

"La Mirada Towne Center is our signature urban redevelopment project," he notes. "With the help of the public authorities and our development partners, we took an edgy area in terms of safety and made it into a town center with a new community of homeowners with a vested interest in the area."

In the increasingly complex world of retail real estate, a public-private partnership can mean the difference between a deal that gets done, and one that never leaves the drawing board.

This month, ICSC and several redevelopment agencies will sponsor a conference designed to promote a better understanding of the nature of public-private partnerships - and to create an environment where such partnerships can flourish.

"The California Alliance Program: Retail Development Through Public/Private Partnerships in the Cities, Towns and Counties of America" will be Nov. 14 and 15 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif.

ICSC is presenting the event in cooperation with the California Association for Local Economic Development; the California Redevelopment Association; the California State Association of Counties; and the League of California Cities. Now more than ever, the program's organizers argue, landlords, tenants and representatives of local cities and counties should work together as partners.

To that end, the program is designed for local government and community leaders to showcase their communities and available sites, and to be able to discuss development opportunities with attending retailers and developers.

Registrants should be prepared to provide concise information about sites, including demographics, market area, traffic counts, infrastructure, zoning and any incentives attached to the project.

Session topics include: "Public-Private Partnerships: What's Old, What's In, What's Out?"; "Brownfields: The Urban Retail Frontier"; "Urban Runoff and Stormwater: New Developments for an Old Problem"; and "Smart Growth: Is it Good, Bad or Indifferent?"

During the development opportunities forum, local government and community representatives that have development opportunities will be able to use table-top exhibits to showcase their sites and communities to retailers and developers. A limited number of free exhibit tables will be available to pre-registered applicants.

Industry representatives on the program planning committee include Stephen C. Hopkins, chairman and CEO of Hopkins Real Estate Group, Newport Beach, Calif.; Frederick J. Stemmler, president of Hopkins Real Estate Group; and Arthur L. Pearlman, president of Arthur Pearlman Corp., Santa Monica, Calif.

For ICSC members/non-members, advance registration is $140 and on-site registration is $170. For representatives of cities, counties, townships, states or municipalities, advance and on-site registration is $75. To register: (fax) 212-589-5600 (credit card only); online: (registration forms available).

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