Power centers are coming to the city.

Once confined to more suburban locales, these retail centers are popping up in densely populated urban areas including West Los Angeles, where One Westside Place is set to open May 16 at the southeast corner of Sawtelle and Olympic boulevards.

Anchored by Linens N’ Things and Marshalls, the $30 million, 300,000-square-foot center is part of a new generation of “vertical power centers” designed for metropolitan areas. No acres of parking here One Westside Place has three stories of retail space and an attached four-story parking structure.

Vertical power centers, which typically are anchored by at least two major discount stores, are the result of two forces the high cost of land in urban areas and the desire of discounters to serve the urban market.

Just last month, discount giant Wal-Mart Stores announced that it will open its first store in the city of Los Angeles in a two-level building formerly occupied by a Broadway department store in the Panorama Mall. It is Wal-Mart’s first multi-story unit in the United States.

“The numbers speak for themselves – a retailer in an urban area can reach 1 million people in a five mile radius, as opposed to a suburban location where you reach just 200,000 persons within that same radius,” said Robert D. Champion, president of Los Angeles-based Champion Development Group, which built One Westside Place.

Champion said he considered the concept of a vertical power center after building strip malls and realizing that they were not meeting the needs of customers, tenants or their communities.

“They were too small, lacked sufficient parking and were not a positive influence on the urban landscape,” he said.

Shoppers can expect to see a growing trend of retailers locating in vertical power centers, said Richard Giss, a partner in the trade retail service group of Deloitte & Touche LLP in Brentwood.

“There is a renovation going on of old retail spaces with some innovative retail concepts coming in and frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air,” Giss said.

Indeed, One Westside Place is a far cry from the average bare-bones suburban shopping power center. It features contemporary styling, gold-colored limestone exterior and teal-colored awnings. A 55-foot glass and steel tower will house a neon aquatic scene, including swimming fish, jumping dolphins and an octopus.

A 2,000 square foot beach scene mural continues the aquatic theme in the courtyard that sits opposite the four-story parking structure.

“This doesn’t look like your typical shopping center. In fact, we had people asking if it was a museum that we were building,” Champion said.

Champion said he wanted to create a center that would be more than just a box. “The aquatic theme was chosen to animate the center so it is not so sterile,” Champion said.

Although the center’s grand opening is still two weeks away, the 31,000-square-foot Marshalls opened on April 20. Two sidewalk cafes Noah’s Bagels and Starbucks have opened and more eateries are on the way.

The outdoor restaurants add a sense of entertainment that is increasingly critical for retail centers to survive, Giss said.

“In the ’90s, we got away from shopping as a recreational sport, it became more of a necessity,” he said. “But now, in order to bring shoppers back, you have to offer an entertainment component that makes it attractive for them to come back.”

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