‘Population, access, traffic’

Founded in 1963, Regency owns, operates and develops grocery-anchored retail centers. Today, it has 364 centers nationwide and a number locally, including the 135,000-square-foot El Camino Shopping Center in Woodland Hills and 95,000-square-foot Plaza Hermosa in Hermosa Beach.

Regency’s Mehigan said the South L.A. site is ideal for a new center.

“It has all the fundamentals we are looking for: the population, access and traffic,” he said. “All these things add up to a sales environment that will make it a great piece of retail.”

The company expects to build the 77,000-square-foot center in about 12 months.

The grocery would be in a freestanding building of about 42,500 square feet, the largest on the site, at the northwest corner. CVS would occupy about 14,576 square feet in a freestanding structure. Two other buildings, totaling more than 20,000 square feet, would add space for up to 12 small shops. An educational community center run by Concerned Citizens will occupy some space in the project as well.

Brentwood architecture firm Nadel Architects Inc. has been the project’s designer since the beginning.

Greg Palaski, Nadel managing director, said the center will have a contemporary look with brick, tile and plaster walls, and elements that he hopes will give the project more visual appeal. He said it was originally conceived as an industrial looking center and then was updated to a Spanish theme when Northgate Gonzalez signed up as a tenant.

Now, rather than have a uniform style, he wants the stores to look like they were built at different times, like a small-town Main Street.

“Things have changed and the attitude toward retail (design) had changed over the years,” he said. “It will be timeless.”

Regency did not disclose rental rates, but the company expects to make back its $18 million investment quickly. Once that is complete, the company will evenly split the proceeds from the shopping center with Concerned Citizens.

Broker Jamie Brooks, who covers the South L.A. area for CBRE Group Inc., said that such projects in dense but low-income areas tend to be successful, pointing to the success of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. What’s more, the project could provide a needed boost to the community.

“It’s a national firm and prominent retail developer,” he said, “and their success will create the momentum and investment incentives that we need to attract other investors and retailers.”