An old Indian burial ground, extensive entitlement issues and construction challenges threatened to thwart development of the Los Altos Gateway Center after the project broke ground in January 1999. But by the end of the year, it was the largest retail/entertainment development by far to be completed in the Los Angeles area.

Los Altos Gateway Center is a $70 million project built by Pacific Theatres Realty Corp. on a 40-acre site. The 396,548-square-foot development takes the place of the Los Altos Drive-in and the Cal Worthington Ford auto dealership. (The Worthington dealership was moved a few acres and no longer fronts the freeway, but it still remains within the new center.)

"(The project is) not just for the neighborhood, but for the outlying neighborhoods and the region," said Neil Haltrecht, vice president of real estate and development for Pacific Theatre Realty. "With larger tenants like Kmart, we want to pull from more than the neighborhood, so that people can come from several miles away. It's really almost regional in scope."

Anchor tenants are Kmart and Lowe's Hardware. Cal Worthington Ford, Carl's Jr., Kentucky Fried Chicken, and one of the first drive-through Starbucks outlets are also part of the center. In spite of the developer's roots as a major movie theater chain, the project does not include a movie theater.

The center originally included plans for a SuperKmart, but the store was downsized to a regular Kmart after neighbors objected to the planned 24-hour, 60,000-square-foot supermarket. This change then left room for the other anchor tenant, a 165,000-square-foot Lowe's that includes a garden center, which the neighbors finally approved.

Given the possibility that the project was being built on an Indian burial ground, developers ended up hiring a consultant. "There was a long entitlement process, working though the natives," Haltrecht said. "So after we broke ground, for the entire year we had to check for bones. Thank goodness there weren't any."

Pacific Theatres Realty isn't just the builder of the largest retail project last year, it was the most active retail developer in Los Angeles, with a total of 682,954 square feet of developed property in the county.

The company is currently developing about 2 million square feet of space, including the long-awaited development of Hollywood's Cinerama Dome project. Pacific Theatres Realty completed Long Beach Town Square last year, a 150,000-square-foot retail project anchored by Ralphs and L.A. Fitness.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.