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62M SF Coming to Warner Center

Los Angeles

When Warner Center was in its infancy, many envisioned the next Century City. At Bisnow's Future of the Valley, two all-star panels plus an LA City Councilman discussed the reality that's coming our way, plus opportunities in the San Fernando and Conejo valleys.

If a construction circus is on the way, it's fitting that 275 people joined us under a big top in a gorgeous setting: Rising Realty Partners' 4500 Park Granada project in Calabasas.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the West San Fernando Valley, discussed the recently approved Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan—a green, TOD plan. It envisions 30M SF of non-residential space and 32M SF of new residential space, all divided into distinct districts connected by public transit. It's already generated significant interest, he says, citing The Village at Westfield Topanga. The $350M retail development is the first project to begin construction since the Specific Plan was adopted.

Allison Asset Management president David Allison chairs the Warner Center Association, a nonprofit of business and property owners. His father was one of the founders of Warner Center, having brokered the initial 1,000-acre land sale to Kaiser-Aetna. Warner Center has been developed in waves, he notes. The Specific Plan re-study was sparked when a large volume of residential units got built in a short period of time, raising concerns.

Rosenheim & Associates president Brad Rosenheim, who helped develop the 2035 plan, says a key is to create jobs using new residential as an incentive for employers. (Residential is good, since you don't want employees sleeping at their desk.) There's no density limitation on residential projects. In addition, the plan makes the entitlement process a quid pro quo, providing developers with certainty in exchange for "pretty restrictive" design standards. If your project is in conformance, an administrative review takes the place of a public hearing process. Developers also can piggyback off of a newly created environmental document, eliminating the need to do a full EIR.

Adler Realty Investments president Mike Adler recently bought Equity Office's 13-building Warner Center portfolio. What excites him about being a new investor in Warner Center? The 2035 Specific Plan is a modern plan that will transition the area into a 24/7 environment. By calling for ground-floor retail uses, pedestrian-oriented design requirements (think parkways and walkways), and a lot more emphasis on mixed-use, Warner Center will become a more vibrant community, he says.

Our moderator, CBRE managing director David Josker, says a community's walkability is something that's been coming up over the past few years. When Rick Caruso, for whom he worked for two years, built The Americana at Brand, Glendale's walkability score (as measured by the website shot up from 63 to 98. (Upon hearing that news, our audience's heart rate hit the same numbers.)

Where the old Specific Plan required 25- to 40-foot landscape setbacks, Brad says the new plan calls for development to come up to the street. Setbacks will be public spaces such as dining or benches, creating a more walkable experience. According to David Allison, one ingredient still missing before Warner Center can become a live/work/play environment is an entertainment or cultural catalyst, like Downtown LA’s Staples Center, to bring people into the area after hours. (We're learning to juggle, if that's relevant here.) Mike sees higher-end residential and condos in Warner Center's future.

A rare look at 4500 Park Granada's five Bloom Energy Servers. Rising Realty president Chris Rising says the natural gas generators have reduced operating expenses by nearly 85%. And fun fact: The building's basement contains a safe room; if President Reagan had been on the West Coast during a nuclear war, helicopters would have whisked him to the property. (If you're ever on the grounds and find yourself asking, "Shall we play a game?" you'd better be holding a Frisbie.)