Westfield UTC’s building it, will you come?

Although malls across America have succumbed to the metastasis of online shopping, Westfield UTC is doubling down $600 million on its brick-and-mortar commitment at 4545 La Jolla Village Drive. It announced that up to 90 new stores are expected to join its posh parade of luxury brands — some lease negotiations are still in progress — by mid-November. This is thanks to 250,000 square feet of retail space mostly provided by a sacrificed Genesee Avenue parking lot.

“We love celebrating new things in the market,” said John Alderson, vice-president of development for Westfield, during a hard-hat tour provided to La Jolla Light last week. “So if we can bring a tenant that hasn’t been in San Diego and introduce them, that is part of the appeal of UTC.”

This phase’s anchor — a relocated, two-floor Nordstrom’s — is already open. Soon to follow will be Vineyard Wines; clothing shop Marine Layer; men’s brands Rodd & Gunn, UntuckIt and SuitSupply; jewelry and accessory brands Fossil, Kendra Scott, CJ Charles and Swarovski; shoe stores ECCO and Allen Edmonds; home furnisher Arhaus; and cosmetic stores Origins, Saje Natural Wellness, Jo Malone London and an independent M*A*C Cosmetics.

Complementing the mix will be first-to-market eateries Shake Shack, The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar and Larsen’s Steakhouse, in addition to Great Maple, Smokeyard BBQ, Napizza, True Food Kitchen, Chop Shop and Javier’s Finest Foods of Mexico. (Din Tai Fung, the first Taiwanese restaurant to receive a Michelin Star, is expected to open next Spring.)

Alderson would not reveal what will become of the shuttered former Nordstrom’s or Sears sites. “That’s the next big secret, isn’t it?” he said.

Plans also include more than 2,000 additional parking spaces — most in a just-opened five-story garage — taking the overall capacity to 5,500. However, Westfield UTC confirmed that it will start charging most shoppers to park at the mall after two hours next year. Said Alderson, “85 percent or 88 percent of our customers are able to shop within two hours, so that’s how we set the two-hour time.”

Stores will be able to validate parking for customers of their choosing, Alderson said, or they can negotiate with the mall to provide extra time to all their customers.

Flemming Larsen, owner of the still-under-construction Larsen’s Steakhouse, told the Light that his diners will receive three hours’ free parking, and that he’s “almost positive” the non-validated charge will only be $1 per hour after two hours.

In addition to its new stores, Westfield UTC, which opened in 1977, is busy prepping new plazas, valet lounges, event spaces and public art.

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