Seeking to turn around more than two decades of lackluster performance at the Promenade mall in Woodland Hills, the shopping center's owner is considering converting it into a "big box"-oriented center.

Plans are in their formative stages, but Westfield America Inc. is looking at building retail stores with "large floor areas" and "large selections," rather than the boutique-sized specialty retail spaces now in place, said Randall Smith, executive vice president of West L.A.-based Westfield.

Opened in 1973, the Promenade has never been a strong draw for shoppers.

"This has always been an extremely slow mall," said Joseph Reich, owner of See World, an optical shop that has been at Promenade for 21 years.

"Big box" typically refers to stand-alone retail buildings that house a single store with an extensive selection of merchandise, often at discount prices. The average size of a big-box store is around 50,000 square feet, whereas "in-line" specialty retail stores in malls typically take up about 6,000 square feet.

Westfield also owns the nearby Topanga Plaza mall, which has been the Promenade's chief competitor.

"You generally have different merchants at a different price point in big boxes than you do at a regional mall like Topanga Plaza," Smith said. "With that arrangement, the centers would be more complementary to one another."

Westfield officials haven't decided whether redevelopment would entail demolition of part or the entire Promenade. It may take as long as two years before a redevelopment plan is formed.

The Promenade long has sought to attract high-end shoppers with anchors such as Saks Fifth Avenue. Competitor Topanga Plaza also has an upscale anchor in Nordstrom, in addition to more value-oriented stores like Sears and Montgomery Ward.

Macy's has taken over two of the Promenade's three anchor spots within the past five years, after the I. Magnin chain went bankrupt and Robinson's pulled out following its merger with the May Co. Saks Fifth Avenue left after the store was damaged in the Northridge earthquake. The space was sold to Kansas City-based American Multi-Cinema Inc., which opened a 16-screen movie theater there in 1996.

Promenade merchants said the addition of the AMC theater complex helped improve customer traffic, but it has not been the tonic they had hoped for.

Westfield acquired the mall from Indianapolis-based Simon DeBartolo Group Inc., which had owned it since last September.

Michael Schiff, senior associate with real estate brokerage Grubb & Ellis Co., said there is significant demand on the part of big-box retailers to find space near the Promenade. For example, he said, Toys R Us has been scouring the area to find space for a 50,000-square-foot store.

Susan Pugliese, a manager at Mahogany Bay, a furniture boutique in the Promenade, says it would be a disservice if the mall were converted into a big-box power center. From her conversations with customers, people come to the Promenade because they see it as a home and fashion "design center," with high-end boutique stores not found elsewhere in the West Valley.

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