The Arcadia City Council unanimously approved plans for a high-end shopping center at an unused Santa Anita Race Track parking lot, clearing the way for the Rick Caruso-lead project to break ground.

The only omission form Caruso's initial plan, which also received unanimous approval from Arcadia's planning commission late last month, was a 98,000-square-foot off-track betting facility, the council said.

The proposed project, which would be built by the developer's Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated, includes shops, restaurants and movie theaters next to the historic race track.

Australia-based Westfield Group owns a mall next door to Caruso's proposed site and has waged a battle with the local developer to stop him from building the project. Westfield funds a group called Arcadia First!, which opposes the Caruso development, saying it would snarl traffic in some 20 near-by intersections.

To help appease local residents, Caruso sweetened the deal with promises to include a community performing arts center and 25,000 square feet of office space for the Arcadia School District's headquarters in the new development.

Caruso has shown a knack for winning these types of battles, coming out victorious in a similar battle three years ago against General Growth Properties, the owner of the Glendale Galleria. His company is now building a mixed use complex called Americana at Brand across from the Glendale mall.

A letter from Caruso's firm to Arcadia residents promised to "build on the rich heritage of the track and provide upscale shops, unique outdoor restaurants, and lushly landscaped park-like settings and promenades."

Arcadia First! Members said they are mulling their options, which included a referendum as well as litigation, a spokesman said.

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