Esther Kang

Proposed Manhattan Village mall expansion tentatively approved, but developer threatens to drop out

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A rendering of the three-phase Manhattan Village expansion. Courtesy of RREEF

A rendering of the three-phase Manhattan Village expansion. Courtesy of RREEF

The Manhattan Beach City Council’s 3-2 vote after midnight Tuesday gave initial approval to the proposed Manhattan Village expansion under several conditions that the developer clearly stated were not negotiable.

The motion, opposed by Mayor Amy Howorth and Councilman Tony D’Errico, directed staff to draft a resolution approving phases one and two and adding back phase three, which, largely conceptual at this point, would demolish Fry’s Electronics to build a connecting mall adjacent to the site. The council in January directed the developer RREEF to drop the last phase because Fry’s, whose lease expires Dec. 2016, had expressed an interest in staying.

According to Mark English of RREEF, the developer and Fry’s have worked out a long-term lease extension with a one-year notice of termination. It is unclear how phase three would be carried out if Fry’s remains at the location.

About six hours into the public hearing, Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Powell made a motion intended to serve as a compromise for RREEF, the community and neighboring property owner 3500 Sepulveda. The conditions stipulate that RREEF add a stairwell and elevator in the north parking deck directly adjacent to 3500’s tenants, procure a memorandum of understanding within 10 days showing Macy’s formal agreement to consolidate, and negotiate in good faith with 3500’s representative Mark Neumann, who claims the proposed project infringes on the two parties’ private agreement.

RREEF’s English said all conditions above could be agreed upon. The deal breaker, he claimed, was the condition to remove the top half-level deck of the north parking structure, which would require a corresponding reduction in the mall’s square footage. English said the project scale has already been cut back in prior negotiations, and without the allowance to expand the footprint of the parking structure to make up for the 110 lost spaces, it wasn’t up for discussion. The court area parking is already at a bare minimum, he said, chastising the council for making “snap decisions about site plan changes and design elements” at the eleventh hour.

Tuesday’s meeting was continued from the council’s eighth public hearing on the mall expansion on April 29. The project was first proposed in 2006.

“If that’s what you vote on, there’s no project,” English warned. “You’re throwing us into more conflict, which is what’s been happening continually throughout this process … We’ve been through this before. We’ve studied this ad nauseum. We won’t agree to it.”

The proposed expansion would add nearly 113,000 sq. ft. to the existing site in three phases of construction. The proposed site is 696,000 sq. ft. total. Phase one would demolish Coffee Bean and See’s Candy, among other stores, to make way for an 25,000 sq. ft. outdoor promenade with new retail space and two two-and-a-half level parking decks on the north and south sides of the mall. Phase two entails consolidating Macy’s men’s store with the main department store building.

At the April 29 meeting, the council was poised to certify the final environmental impact report and approve a master use permit amendment for the project, following its direction on Jan. 14 to draft resolutions for approval with 10 conditions and revisions, including a 10,000 sq. ft. reduction from phase one and a smaller redesign for the north parking deck. RREEF presented the altered site plan in April meeting all the conditions, but no decision was made due to the late hour and litigation threats from 3500’s attorney Cory Briggs, who claimed the council had not followed proper procedure.

When asked after the vote whether RREEF will drop the project, English said he had “no official comment” but that his team will be in discussion.