Ira Smedra

Arba Group

Age: 48

Specialty: Retail shopping centers.

Recent deal: Seeking approval for the Village Center Westwood project.

With a long history of civic activism, Westwood Village spells trouble to most developers. But Ira Smedra has been willing to go where many of his developer brethren are fearful to tread.

Smedra wants to build a 437,000-square-foot retail project anchored by a multiplex cinema in the heart of the village. Despite some local opposition, L.A. City Councilman Mike Feuer gave it a tentative nod of support last month.

Smedra contends that most residents and merchants are desperate for ways to revitalize the area. He hired a public relations firm to coalesce support for the project a move that drew attacks from homeowner groups but which may have helped keep the project alive.

A graduate of UCLA with a degree in psychology, Smedra originally set out to attend law school. But those plans changed when his father died, putting Smedra in command of his father's real estate company at the age of 19.

A specialist in shopping center projects, Smedra had a hand in projects from the Hastings Ranch in Pasadena to the Laurel Promenade in Studio City.

Arba Group, which Smedra runs in partnership with Jacob Wintner, manages over 700,000-square-feet of commercial space in shopping centers in the Los Angeles area.

Smedra recently developed several new Ralph's supermarkets, including a 45,000-square foot store at Rosemead Boulevard and the Foothill Freeway in Pasadena and a 42,000-square-foot store in a vertical shopping center at Pico Boulevard and Beverwil Drive in Los Angeles.

"He is a very creative developer in the design and layout of projects within inner city areas," said Sandy Yavitz, vice president of real estate for Ralphs Grocery Co.

A tennis enthusiast, Smedra funded and built the library at the Yavneh Hebrew Academy near his Hancock Park home.

Julie Sable

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