Pitching Pacific View

Mall exec tries to sell expansion to Midtown council

By David Courtland 08/16/2007

Thursday night’s Midtown Ventura Community Council meeting drew about 60 people who came to hear Pacific View Mall’s general manager talk about plans for its blighted north end.

Target Stores’ announcement it is taking over Robinson-May’s space, giving the mall an important “big box” anchor for drawing other retailers, has spurred neighborhood interest in plans for the mall.

For about an hour Trey Lindle of mall owner Macerich described retailers’ priorities and how they affect plans for the mall, which has had a vacant building next to the city’s Telegraph Avenue public transit center for several years.

“We’ve had several discussions with the city,” said Lindle. “As we move forward, I would hope everybody understands, retailers have to buy into it.”

Macerich has work to do on selling the mall’s potential, Lindle acknowledged. One hurdle is convincing retailers they will be able to generate enough sales per square foot of lease space to make it worth their while.

“For $500 per square foot, they’ll sign without even visiting — we’re not quite there yet,” said Lindle, adding the mall’s location is another hurdle.

“(Retailers) all want freeway exposure, you don’t see Pacific View from the freeway,” said Lindle.

Asked whether Pacific View could be converted to an open-air mall, as was done with Oxnard’s Esplanade shopping center several years ago, Lindle said removing the mall’s roof and improving the mall’s “walkability” wouldn’t necessarily attract more retailers.

“Retailers want critical mass, and it’s not there” in open-air malls, said Lindle. “But I’m not scared of the roof, customers will come for retailers.”

Lindle said he hopes to announce in the next two weeks a restaurant will be joining the mall’s businesses, but he couldn’t be more specific about other retailers considering a move to Pacific View.

Ventura City Council members Christy Weir and Bill Fulton also attended the meeting, as well as City Manager Rick Cole, who told the audience the city’s interest in the project is to make sure it has long-term viability.

“We want to make sure that the first step is congruous,” said Cole, “to keep it from being something that five or 10 or 20 years down the road we have to tear down.”

MVCC Chair Bruce Ayling, who introduced Lindle, said the meeting was a preliminary discussion to hear what people who live in the neighborhood between the mall and Community Memorial Hospital had to say about the project.

Ayling said a committee the council is forming to work with Macerich and city officials on the project would use public input.

But not everyone was satisfied with Lindle’s presentation or convinced his answers showed the mall could be turned around.

“There was no new information — it’s obvious the city has no leverage, we can’t make them do anything,” said retired publisher Camille Harris. “You need something more than stores to attract people now, that’s the trend.”

Dunning Street resident Richard Abraham was particularly unhappy Lindle couldn’t answer his question about whether there might be asbestos in the vacant building.

“He’s the general manager, and he doesn’t know if there’s asbestos in the building?” said Abraham, a retired marine pipefitter who says he overheard talk about asbestos possibly being in the building while doing some work at the mall’s J.C. Penny store in 1997.

Lindle’s presentation was preceded by one on the city’s bicycle master plan from transportation engineers Thomas Mericle and Jim Biega.

Biega said the city has scheduled some workshops to give the public a chance to tell city staff what they want in the master plan, which is updated every four years.

“The idea is to gain public input, answer questions and be sure public needs are being met,” said Biega.

Mericle said input is particularly important in determining where road maintenance needs to be done to make roads safer for bicyclists, citing work done on Foothill Road as an example.

“Without spending too much money we were able to put more pavement down,” said Mericle, “and it’s made a noticeable difference.”

The next workshop is on Wednesday, Aug. 29 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Barranca Vista Park, on Ralston Avenue east of Johnson Avenue.

Ventura Police Dept.’s Lt. Quinn Fenwick gave the audience a report on efforts to cut down on drug traffic and prostitution at some city motels.

The City Center Motel will be soon be evacuated and fenced up, said Fenwick, and other motel owners are cooperating with police since it began enforcing the city’s excessive service call rule.

The ordinance, passed by the city council about a year ago, lets the police department charge motel owners for repeated visits. The cost can amount $1,400 per year, said Fenwick.

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