Developer Ira Smedra has vastly scaled down his controversial Village Center Westwood retail-theater project and redesigned it using more of an urban retailing concept, sources said.
The theater proposed as part of the $110 million project has been reduced to 1,000 seats down from 4,600 while two anchor stores, a Ralphs supermarket and upscale drug store (possibly Longs), remain, along with several smaller shops, sources said.
Either market-rate or senior apartments would be located on the second floor, with retail below. The project is proposed for a site bordered by Glendon, Weyburn and Tiverton avenues, not far from UCLA.
"We're working on some major revisions," said Smedra, president of Arba Group. "There are a lot of rumors about what we're doing, but the project is not finalized."
He declined to detail any specific changes.
Sources said that rather than featuring a sunken Mediterranean-style, open-air plaza, the project would now be more oriented to surrounding streets. An underground parking lot would be constructed under the entire five-acre site.
Under the revised plan, Glendon would remain open rather than becoming a pedestrian mall a major sticking point with opponents of the initial plan. Assemblyman Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, had authored a bill that would have aided the street-closure process but later dropped it amid fierce opposition.
Local homeowner groups also had concerns about the scale of the original project along with the number of theater seats and the courtyard design, which some feared would suck life from other streets in the village.
Neighborhood activist and opponent Laura Lake said she is still seeking information about the redesign, but believes "it's moving in the right direction."
"I find it encouraging," she said. "Our position is, go with the Westwood Specific Plan, go in peace. I'll dig the first shovel if it's in compliance."
If Smedra reduces the number of theater seats, he would not have to ask for an amendment to the specific plan. Guidelines contained in that 1984 plan cap the total number of theater seats allowed in Westwood Village at 6,030 a figure that already has been reached. In order to free up 1,000 seats for his project, Smedra would tear down the Mann Plaza Theatre.
Village Center Westwood has been in limbo for almost a year. The city Planning Commission approved it in April 1998, but several months later Smedra began requesting the delay of public hearings while he conducted a final project analysis.
The approval process has yet to pick up where it left off. If Smedra eventually submits a radically different proposal, he would likely have to repeat some steps in the planning process, said Jane Blumenfeld, chief of staff for Councilman Michael Feuer.
"They're getting close to re-filing something," she said. "It's going to be pretty different. They've been trying to address issues that were problematic."
Another sticking point is Smedra's proposal to demolish the Glendon Manor apartment building, which some local activists opposed. The state Historical Resources Commission has declared the 70-year-old building eligible for the state Register of Historical Resources. Smedra is appealing the decision.
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