The months-long renovation of Century City's only shopping center has been an exercise in patience, with relocated stores, reduced parking, double-parked dump trucks and nonstop construction noise all cutting into the shopping experience. Overall mall sales are down because some customers have just given up.


Not much longer, though. The first phase of Westfield Group's transformation of its Westside mall will be almost finished next month with the opening of a second-floor dining terrace, a gussied up replacement of the center's tired-looking food court that will feature, among other things, indoor and outdoor seating and real silverware instead of the plastic stuff.


The following month, just in time for the holiday movie season, comes a 15-screen AMC theater with stadium seating, digital technology and surround sound that will replace a 14-screen lower-tech multiplex in another portion of the mall.


It's all part of what Sydney, Australia-based Westfield dubs a "hy-style" mall a hybrid of traditional and lifestyle shopping centers where department store anchors place second to entertainment venues, restaurants and specialty retailers. "It is something that we are doing to differentiate from our competitors, and it is something that we are looking at to roll out to the rest of our centers," said Paul Kurzawa, Westfield's vice president of management.


If all goes well at the newly christened Westfield Century City the name "Shoppingtown" has been dropped Westfield will take the hy-style concept to its 10 other malls throughout the Los Angeles region.


Already, Westfield Topanga in Canoga Park is being renovated and expanded, and plans are being readied to make over Westfield Fox Hills. The price tag for all three centers is around $600 million, with many more millions to renovate the other properties.


Fundamental transition
There are skeptics, among them Elliot Mahn, owner of Agoura Hills-based Potatoes Potatoes Potatoes, which runs Century City's California Crisp location. He said shoppers don't think about the Westfield brand when they go into a mall and amenities like fancy forks aren't the reason people choose to eat there. (Anyway, he said silverware ends up getting stolen.)


But Westfield's willingness to invest so much speaks volumes about the fundamental transition taking place in retailing. With department stores consolidating and so-called lifestyle centers like the Grove drawing away customers with their specialty retailers and movie theaters, the more traditional centers must keep up by providing many things to many shoppers or at least trying to.

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