Defeat for another mall owner

Taubman Centers is not the only large mall owner to try to squelch plans for construction of a pedestrian-scale mixed-use center near one of its existing regional malls. A jury decided last month that General Growth Properties (GGP) must pay $74.2 million in compensatory damages for attempting to undermine The Americana at Brand, a 15.5-acre retail, entertainment, and residential project under way in downtown Glendale, California.

The money is to be paid to Caruso Affiliated Holdings, which is building Glendale’s $429 million center in partnership with the city. The New York Times reported Nov. 10 that GGP, owner of more than 200 other shopping centers, tried several strategies to keep Americana from being built adjacent to GGP’s Glendale Galleria. Those included collecting signatures to force a referendum (which instead approved the development), filing a lawsuit challenging the project’s environmental impact statement, and interfering with Caruso’s attempt to have The Cheesecake Factory open a restaurant there.

Americana, which is reportedly on schedule to open in spring 2008, will have 475,000 sq. ft. of stores, restaurants, and cinemas, plus 100 condominium units, 238 rental apartments, and a 2,700-space parking garage. Lawyers for Caruso presented evidence suggesting that GGP tried to thwart The Cheesecake Factory’s lease at Americana by threatening to block Cheesecake’s deals at malls owned by GGP. The jury found that GGP acted with “malice, oppression, or fraud.” As New Urban News went to press, the punitive damage phase of the trial was scheduled to begin.

Rick Caruso, chief executive of Caruso Affiliated, has previously developed popular open-air shopping and entertainment centers such as The Grove, a 575,000-square-foot shopping and entertainment destination in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. The Grove lacks housing, and has been accused by some of being too “scripted” and controlled to be an “authentic” urban environment. On the other hand, the Grove’s emphasis on human scale, pedestrian comfort, and appealing streets has won praise from some commentators on urban design.

Caruso claims that Americana, with a two-acre park at its heart, will be a “catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Glendale.” The company’s in-house architectural team worked with Elkus/Manfredi Architects on the design. Caruso has said all its future projects will include residential.