Responding to community pressure, the developer of the planned Village Center Westwood will release a revised plan for the project this week that cuts the amount of space set aside for theaters and restaurants and increases the retail component.
The new plan trims the number of theater screens from 17 to 13, reducing the number of seats from 4,700 to 3,400.
As part of those changes, a planned IMAX theater would be eliminated.
In addition, there would be just 26,000 square feet of restaurant space down from 45,000 square feet.
Retail space would increase from about 200,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet or about half the project.
The revised plans are scheduled to be released Monday and will be discussed May 5 by a community group appointed by Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer, who represents the area. Details of the plans were obtained in advance by the Business Journal.
Members of the Friends of Westwood resident group have complained that the theaters and restaurants would bring too many people and too much traffic into the area. The changes by downtown L.A.-based Arba Group appear designed to address those concerns.
“The project is considerably downsized there have been enormous changes but we think that this mix will work well for everyone as we are in a hurry to get this project going,” a source close to the developer said.
The Friends of Westwood has proposed an alternative plan called The Village Commons for the 5-acre site. The Commons proposal rejected as impractical by Arba president Ira Smedra calls for live playhouses, a public library, a European-style market and outdoor cafes.
The idea would be to establish Westwood as an arts and cultural hub, not a shopping area anchored by theaters.
Friends of Westwood representatives could not be reached for comment on the new plans.
In its revised proposal, Arba seems to be acknowledging the demand for public space by proposing a 500-square-foot community center that could be used as an arts center or a children’s library.
The 600,000-square-foot project would be built on a 5.17-acre vacant parcel bounded by Weyburn, Glendon and Tiverton avenues.
Despite public opposition to the theaters, no consideration was given to eliminating them entirely, according to a source close to the developer.
The source pointed out that an all-retail project would generate 77 percent more car trips in and out of the Village, according to an environmental impact report.
Movie houses would mitigate some of this because theater traffic tends to spread out throughout the evening and not increase during the evening rush hour.
Additionally, a public opinion poll commissioned by the developer showed support for the theaters among people living within a four-mile radius of the project.
In the past, the Village was known as a prime location for movie viewing. But many of Westwood’s theaters are empty as moviegoers now travel to state-of-the-art theaters in surrounding neighborhoods.
As shopping habits have changed, theaters have emerged as the new anchors for retail districts. The theaters are seen as a key to the success of the Smedra project.
Even so, the developer has agreed to eliminate the 100-foot IMAX theater, which would keep the project within compliance of the Village Specific Plan, a city-drafted policy that guides Westwood growth. The Village plan limits buildings to three-stories.
Additionally, a proposed eight-story senior housing apartment building has been scaled back to five stories and the number of units would be reduced from 242 to 164. The assisted living senior facility would have a home-like atmosphere and provide nursing care to its residents.
With the exception of a third level of movie theaters, the project stays within the height limits of the Village plan.
Under the revised plan, Glendon Avenue would remain closed to traffic but become a 35-foot-wide pedestrian promenade, similar to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The pedestrian bridge over Glendon Avenue that would have been adjacent to and above the promenade has been eliminated under the new plan.