Westfield Leads the Blanding of L.A. Shopping
by Carol Wade
Los Angeles has a new branding of shopping centers.
Westfield America, the Australian real estate investment company, intends to generate hundreds of dollars per square foot as it boosts its portfolio of shopping centers onto the L.A. landscape.
Neighborhood shopping centers have traditionally owed their identity to their location. Not any more. Westfield Shoppingtown Centers have changed that. They all have anchor department stores, children receive free balloons, strollers resembling fire engines are provided for moms, and “pay and play” areas are provided for toddlers to ride in toy helicopters.
Hundreds of look-alike kiosks flood the walkways making a stroll more of a “dodge-the-carts” shopping experience. Huge lounge areas beg weary families to sit down, rest, and shop again.
Westfield Shoppingtown executives want us to think “branding.” When we drive to Santa Anita, West Covina, or Topanga from the Westside, they want us to see Westfield Shoppingtown. And we do. We can’t avoid it. Westfield Shoppingtown Century City looks the same as Westfield Shoppingtown Santa Anita. These shopping centers are boring. They have a bad case of the “blahs.” They are consumerism gone amuck.
Century City’s shopping center was once a timeless beauty. This has been turned into the dull look of an anywhere shopping mall. Large red “waving-in-the-wind” Westfield banners are on every lamppost.
In a city of savvy design, L.A.’s formerly well-defined neighborhood shopping malls have turned into identical sisters. And each Westfield Shoppingtown sister is as dull as the next one.
Instead of keeping the old customer, Westfield management wants to attract the new customer. They thrive on their shopping mall experience of branding from other cities. They also copy the “lifeless” spirit of their other cities’ shopping centers.
What’s next? More traditional horizontal malls peppered around Los Angeles? More reconnecting streets to limit shoppers from exiting into neighborhoods to shop? A Westfield Shoppingtown song? Westfield-Marts?
Carol Wade is a Los Angeles writer.