Article originally posted on DailyBreeze.com.
Ambitious new plans unveiled this week would transform the hulking, abandoned Hawthorne Plaza mall from a ramshackle haven for feral cats and vagrants into a state-of-the-art place to shop, work and live.
Under a preliminary proposal accepted late Wednesday by the city’s Planning Commission, the concrete monolith would be razed to make way for a massive mixed-use complex. Plans won’t be finalized until they are approved by the City Council, and The Charles Co. — the mall owner — has not yet announced any tenants for the development.
But renderings for a new project at the Hawthorne Boulevard site, which stretches across 1 million square feet between 120th Street and El Segundo Boulevard, depict something similar to The Americana at Brand in Glendale and Paseo Colorado in Pasadena.
WALKABLE COURTYARDS, MIXED USES
The new development wouldn’t be a mall, but would include a large “power center,” or outdoor mini-mall, an office complex and walkable outdoor retail strips with upper-level homes. Courtyards and parklets are scattered throughout the plans and even included on the rooftop.
“The revitalization of the former mall must center on a development that is viable and reasonable in the context of the economy of both Hawthorne, the region and investors,” interim City Manager Arnie Shadbehr said. “It should meet the shopping and dining needs of the community but also be self-sustaining on its own to ensure long-term success and economic rewards for the developer, the tenants and the city itself.
“Ultimately, this development should erase the blight that has sat at the former mall site and help reinvigorate the heart of Hawthorne to instill pride in the community and help inspire economic growth.”
The plans call for retail shops on the first floor fronting Hawthorne Boulevard, topped with parking garages that would act as a buffer for upper-level residences. More than 800,000 square feet of offices would take up most of the eastern portion, and most of the project’s 600 homes would sit on the western part. Altogether, about 500,000 square feet of retail space is included, along with nearly 5,900 parking spaces.
THIRD TIME A CHARM?
This is the third plan for the site that has emerged since 2007. An outlet mall was most recently proposed, but is instead now set to be built on a large vacant lot along the 405 Freeway in Carson that was recently considered as the next home for a Los Angeles-area NFL stadium.
“This plan turns many of the retail (stores) and restaurants outward facing Hawthorne Boulevard,” said Gregg McClain, the city’s director of planning. “This will help to activate the sidewalks and bring back life to the downtown. The old plan was still very automobile oriented.
“The new plan starts with removing everything on the site, except maybe one parking structure. It is a superior design on many levels, not least because it is not constrained by the existing structures. This is more of a quality condominium style (of housing) and closer to the street. We are trying to activate the street, and having the units facing the boulevard goes a long way to achieving that.”
The Planning Commission on Wednesday approved the draft environmental impact report for the Downtown Hawthorne Specific Plan, a document that will guide redevelopment of the aging old downtown Hawthorne Boulevard strip. That proposal would develop four hubs around the mall, the Civic Center, South Bay Ford dealership and St. Joseph Catholic Church and School.
Hotels would be prioritized in the north end of town, nearest Los Angeles International Airport, and the boulevard would be upgraded.
John Oshimo of GRC Associates Inc., a consulting firm that helped create the vision for the boulevard, said the overhaul should include walkable plazas, public art, extended bike lanes, revitalization of poorly maintained buildings, and educational uses like libraries.
“How do we make this a healthier area? Improving the quality of life for Hawthorne residents as well as visitors?” Oshimo said. “Outdoor plazas, outdoor gathering spaces, seating areas, and just more outdoor space along the boulevard. … We’re trying to get healthier markets and improve access to healthy food.”