By John Loesing
Acorn Staff Writer
By John Loesing
A 24-acre site in Agoura Hills, once the battleground for a proposed Home Depot store, could be the location for a new upscale fashion mall with Neiman Marcus as a possible anchor, according to the project’s developer.
Last year, voters passed a ballot measure that limited "big box" retail stores in Agoura Hills to 60,000 square feet, thwarting developer Dan Selleck’s bid to bring a Home Depot to the city.
A new referendum that’s likely to appear on the ballot this November would give the Westlake developer permission to exceed the 60,000 square-foot limitation, as long as the new anchor is a high-end retailer.
A spokesman for the Home Depot opposition said he would support the fashion mall.
"A Home Depot wasn’t the type of project the people wanted in Agoura Hills," said Al Abrams, who led a petition drive to put Measure H, the anti-Home Depot measure on last year’s ballot.
The measure passed by a scant 107 votes, leaving experts to believe that a shopping center of some type would be built sooner or later.
At least some opponents of big box stores believe Selleck’s new proposal is a good alternative.
"When you talk about a high-end fashion retail center, that necessitates a certain quality look," Abrams said. "It has a whole different feel and look. It has a different ambiance, atmosphere and environment."
Although no application has been submitted to the city, Selleck envisions a 350,000 square-foot outdoor mall with gardens, fountains, accessory stores and restaurants. Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue are said to be leading candidates to anchor the mall.
Selleck said he’s been in talks with both stores and has been told that Agoura Hills offers excellent demographics.
Nordstrom apparently isn’t in the running because it’s preparing to build a store in The Oaks shopping center of Thousand Oaks.
Selleck believes his new concept fits the community well.
"We’re not going to compete with other projects in the area," he said. "It’s going to be higher end than The Oaks and more upscale than The Commons (in Calabasas) and The Promenade (in Westlake).
The project—which Selleck previously called the Agoura Ladyface Village Center—wouldn’t have a supermarket and drugstore like The Commons and The Promenade. Tenants mostly would be limited to fashion clothing apparel and other related shops.
"We’re looking at tenants that the residents of Agoura Hills would have to drive to Sherman Oaks or Beverly Hills to find," said Selleck.
As with Home Depot, the mall would be built on Agoura Road just west of Kanan Road.
"If you’re going to use that land, that would be a great solution," Abrams said.
To help mitigate traffic, Selleck would be required to widen Agoura Road to four lanes on the stretch west of Kanan where it currently has only two lanes.
Former rivals in the battle over Measure H, Selleck and Abrams appear to have struck a truce in the interest of giving the community a project that both sides can be happy with. Selleck approached Abrams and asked him to reach out to the community on his behalf.
"What you’re seeing is a potential partnership of both sides of the Measure H vote," Abrams said.
The city is expected to put the Measure H amendment on the November ballot. It needs a simple majority to pass.
"We’re doing what we promised (with Measure H)," Abrams said. "We’re letting the people of Agoura Hills be involved in the decision making process and take ownership of their city."
"We’ve gotten positive feedback so far," said Selleck, who’s built shopping centers in Van Nuys, Simi Valley and Torrance.
When penciled in as a fashion mall, Ladyface Village Center would generate between $500,000 and $1 million in retail sales tax for the city each year, Selleck said. Hundreds of jobs would be another result.
In Van Nuys, Selleck turned a 100-acre abandoned General Motors site into a 380,000 square-foot mall called The Plant that created 1,500 new jobs.
Selleck said he might form a joint venture on the Agoura Hills project with another national retail developer. No names were disclosed, however.