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Monday, Jun 27, 2022

Rams to Follow Mixed-Use Playbook?

While Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke has not revealed his plans for two adjacent properties he recently purchased at Warner Center, the widespread assumption is that the combined sites will be transformed into the Los Angeles Rams’ team headquarters and practice facility with surrounding commercial development — somewhat resembling the SoFi Stadium endeavor in Inglewood.

With Kroenke buying two adjacent parcels in Woodland Hills, “there’s a commitment to a long-term vision, rather than someone who will build it and then will leave,” said Vahid Khorsand, commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. “He’s a long-term player.”

Many believe that Kroenke has cleared the way for creating a training facility for his Super Bowl champions with the purchase a couple weeks ago of the former Anthem Inc. building in Woodland Hills for $175 million.

According to published reports, Kroenke is the buyer of the 13-story Anthem site, officially named the Landmark building, on Oxnard Street in Warner Center. Situated on 32 acres, the Landmark sits adjacent to the dormant Westfield Promenade mall property, which Kroenke purchased in March for $150 million. With the acquisition of the 45,000-square-foot vacant Landmark building and substantial surrounding land, Kroenke now owns two square block and 65 acres in Woodland Hills.

“It is an incredibly exciting time for the West Valley,” said Diana Williams, chief executive of West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce.
The Rams are currently headquartered in Agoura Hills and have a practice field at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.


Prime opportunity

The land is ripe for commercial development. The Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan, promoted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, seeks to make the Warner Center neighborhood the downtown district of the San Fernando Valley.
Partly as a result of that impetus, the previous owner of the Promenade mall block, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, had big plans to redevelop the now nearly vacant mall. It completed the years-long city planning and development process, securing approval for a 3.2 million-square-foot mixed-use Promenade 2035 project. The $1.5 billion overhaul of the parcel near Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Oxnard Street would have brought 1,400 apartment units, retail and restaurants, a 527-key hotel, a 25-story office building and 10,000- to 15,000-seat sports arena to the site.

But shortly after getting approval to build all of that, Unibail announced it planned to sell most of its U.S. retail properties, and construction on the site was never started.
Meanwhile, the adjacent block was largely abandoned in 2019 when Anthem moved out of the big building for smaller space nearby. So the notion of making that area of Warner Center a kind of downtown appeared to have gone cold.

That’s why local reaction to Kroenke’s purchase of both the former Anthem site and the neighboring Promenade property has been positive.
Stuart Waldman, president of Valley Industry Commerce Association, welcomed the news of the purchases and a potential Rams-centric sports and entertainment campus at Warner Center.

“It’s awesome,” Waldman said. “(Kroenke) develops good projects. If you look at Sofi Stadium and what’s going on there, it’s incredible. … Anything that’s Rams-themed will bring people out …Winning the Super Bowl obviously helps.”
Marty Cooper, civic leader and chief executive of Cooper Communications, said the news of Kroenke’s purchase is “terrific.”

“The West Valley has long hungered for both athletic and cultural opportunities and facilities,” Cooper said. “Early on, he talked about establishing a footprint for the Rams in the Valley.”
John Walker is president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, which has already met with the Kroenke Group.

“They met with us before they had purchased the Promenade to discuss details with us,” Walker said. “The meetings were very positive.”
Granted, Kroenke is in the earliest stages of thinking about how to utilize the land and it is unclear exactly what may happen.

“We let them know very clearly that the noise and traffic issues are always problematic,” Walker said. “They said they were interested in putting in some practice fields. They were not sure what they would do with an arena. They don’t really have a plan yet for all of that, but we’re looking forward to working with them.”

Walker’s organization had been involved with the previous plans to develop the land.
“We worked very hard with Westfield when they developed their Promenade project,” said Walker, who believes that developing a Rams site will take some work.

“When there are opportunities like this, there’s always a room for a negative impact,” Walker said, “and we’re going to work with them to see that the negative impact is minimized or eliminated.”

That said, Walker is very optimistic about the project in Kroenke’s hands.
“I think we’ll be able to work with them very well,” Walker said. “It will make Woodland Hills the best place to live, work and play.”

Khorsand, who served as vice president of the citywide planning commission when the entitlements were approved for the Westfield Promenade 2035 project, said that the two adjoining parcels owned by the same owner “is definitely very exciting. This gives an opportunity for continuity.”


Vision for project

The various community representatives spoke about what they’d like to see rise on Kroenke’s land.
Williams said that her group would like to see a “sports-centric mixed-use with new businesses including stores and restaurants. The community would also enjoy green space that is pedestrian-friendly.”

“It’s definitely going to be mixed-use,” Waldman said. “That’s what’s been approved. They have approvals that will allow them to go forward without going back.”
While some may assume that an incoming development would mean that the former Anthem building will be razed, that might not be the case, as the Kroenke organization could develop the land faster if the building was left intact. Otherwise, a new and lengthy approval process could be triggered.

“The Anthem building – they can use as their headquarters,” Walker said. “That’s a turnkey. They walk into that, they’re up and running. If they tear it down, there’s a whole bunch of delays.”
With the entitlements already in place, Khorsand said “it’s all pretty much set to go,” and that probably made the deal more appealing.

“Hopefully, they can build it before 2028 so it can be a component of the Olympics as well,” Khorsand added. He hopes the Rams center will be “a validation for the city and the Valley that it can be an epicenter. There is value to being in the Valley.”

Paola Mendez
Paola Mendez
Paola Mendez graduated from Los Angeles Valley College, then transferred to University of California, and now serves as a Receptionist and Office Assistant to the Los Angeles Business Journal. Paola wears many hats in different departments and is trilingual in English, Spanish and French.

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