Approval of the Manhattan Village Mall expansion project is on the horizon, or so it seems. As the mall owner’s six-and-a-half year effort rallying support and gathering input from the community comes to a close, nearly a dozen individuals on both sides of the coin – consultants, stakeholders and residents – voiced their two cents before the Manhattan Beach City Council at the first of three public hearings on the proposed expansion.
By the last public hearing on Sept. 24, Council is expected to decide whether to approve the applicant’s Master Use Amendment, Variance of Height and Signage Exception – the final green light to begin the construction of a bigger and better mall. However, it’s possible that the decision will take longer.
“Until we feel like we’re fully informed, we can’t make a decision,” Councilman Mark Burton said. “It’s unrealistic to expect a decision in the next three weeks.”
The three-phase renovation of the 44-acre mall will respectively demolish Coffee Bean and See’s Candy among other stores for an outside pedestrian promenade, bringing in new retailers and restaurants; consolidate Macy’s Men with Macy’s main department store, which currently sit on opposite sides of the mall; and demolish the neighboring Fry’s to build a connecting mall across Rosecrans Boulevard. Two new three-tiered parking structures will be built as well.
“Great malls get refreshed every 10 years,” said Larry Kosmont, who was hired by the city to provide an economic and market summary. He warned that without providing an attractive site for current and prospective retail clients, Manhattan Village stands to lose them out to the neighboring Santa Monica Mall, Redondo Harbor Waterfront, South Bay Galleria or Del Amo Center.
Traffic engineer Pat Gibson of Gibson Transportation Consulting quelled concerns about increased traffic congestion, particularly on the already-jammed Sepulveda Boulevard. In his Environmental Impact Report, Gibson determined that the number of net new traffic from the expansion is projected to be low –less than or just around 1-percent increase at each intersection, he said. He also dismissed the severity of impact on neighboring residential areas.
According to Mark English, representing the Manhattan Village developer, the redevelopment will net more $21 million annually compared to current sales and more than $100 million compared to the “do-nothing” approach, forecasted a few years from now where he predicts the uncertainty of the Apple Store staying (according to him, they want to double in size) and a demised Fry’s.
“There’s a lot of emotion in this project,” said resident Chris Prodromides, one of the few dissenting voices. He noted that with neighboring cities like El Segundo and Redondo Beach also undertaking large expansion projects, he predicts an unmanageable rate of congestion in the years to come. “We have a responsibility to scale it down. The scale is just too large.”
No decision was made at the conclusion of the nearly three-hour public hearing. Council must first certify the EIR prior to considering the Master Use Amendment, Variance of Height and Signage Exception. The second public hearing will be held next Tuesday at a regular Council meeting.