Saturday, November 17

Village could see new addition


Plans house retail stores, theaters; developers hope for quick approval

Developers hoping to submit plans to the city this week for a
retail and entertainment complex in the Village say they are hoping
the approval process will be quick and less controversial than
those of past Westwood projects.

If approved, the multi-million dollar, 125,000 sq. ft. building
at Broxton and Le Conte avenues behind Jerry’s Famous Deli
would house medical offices, retail stores and a movie theater with
stadium seating.

Greg Smith, a managing member of Atlantis Development Group,
LLC, which is handling the project, said he hopes it can move
forward without the controversy that for years stalled a $100
million residential and commercial complex planned by developer
Alan Casden for Weyburn and Glendon avenues.

Project developments must adhere to the Westwood Specific Plan,
which maps out height and density requirements for developments as
well as guidelines for their aesthetics. Developers can ask for
exemptions, and Casden asked for 18 at one point, causing community
concerns that delayed his project for years. Atlantis staff are
asking for one deviation, Smith said. To satisfy Westwood’s
requirements, the Atlantis project’s original drawings were
changed this past year to render the facade of the
development’s above-ground structure to look more like
individual storefronts than a single building.

Developers have already gotten feedback from community leaders
on design and traffic mitigation measures for the project that
would likely cost $30 million or more, Smith said. “We love
serendipity. We go to those meetings and someone says, “˜Hey,
have you ever thought of this?’ And we say, “˜Hey, we
love that idea; let’s put that into the
project,’” Smith said.

Jeff Katofsky, another Atlantis managing member, said over 40
possible tenants have expressed interest in opening shops in the
planned edifice. But the only set deal is between developers and
Cold Stone Creamery, he said.

Katofsky said he and colleagues discarded plans to put a grocery
store in the development and hope a bookstore chain the size of
Barnes & Noble or Borders will move in instead.

The only book retailers currently in the Village are much
smaller, and while there is a Borders about a mile south of UCLA,
many students consider the walk from campus too troublesome.

Both Katofsky and Smith said they hope to proceed with the
project without conducting an Environmental Impact Report, which a
city uses to determine the impacts a development could have on
wildlife, traffic and other environmental factors.

“If we have to do an EIR, it’s probably a dead
project. Tenants won’t wait,” Katofsky said.

The city can approve plans without the report if it is convinced
that the developers will sufficiently alleviate the project’s
impact on the surrounding area.

Sandy Brown, president of the Holmby-Westwood Property Owners
Association, said she would support the project if it gains city
approval and doesn’t exacerbate traffic on Westwood’s
main arteries.

She said homeowners are concerned about the impact on Le Conte,
where cars from the development’s six-story, 600-plus-space
subterranean parking lot would enter from and exit out to the
street.

Smith said developers hired engineers to research traffic
impacts and believes one mitigation measure would be installing a
computerized light system that would adjust stop-and-go patterns
according to traffic density.

Traffic mitigation fees that Atlantis and other developers pay
would go toward that system, which could reduce congestion by about
3 percent, Smith said.

But traffic in Westwood could still worsen due to the project,
and Smith says developers are aiming to keep levels within 3
percent of the current volume.

“All of the intersections are already impacted by
traffic,” Smith said. “Everyone understands the
congestion.”

Developers shared preliminary plans with the city at least twice
over the past couple years, but Katofsky said much is still
tentative.

A UCLA alumnus who says he hopes to help revitalize the Village,
Katofsky said he wants his project to fit into the community
without a fight.

Brown said she hasn’t heard from developers in several
months, and that traffic increases remain a concern. But with
regards to the design, she said, “from what we’ve seen
from them, it looks good.”

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