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UTC center to expand with environment in mind

Westfield has a new vision for its UTC shopping center - and it’s sharing it with everyone.

Westfield has unveiled its plan for the first major revitalization of the UTC shopping center in more than two decades. The proposed restructuring features the addition of approximately 750,000 square feet of retail space for new and remodeled anchor stores, state-of-the-art cinema, more than 150 new specialty shops and boutiques, new public outdoor plazas, upgraded parking, a variety of housing opportunities and a regional transit center with a future link to the trolley.

As proposed, Westfield’s vision could represent an investment in excess of $900 million. Upon completion of the review and approval process, Westfield hopes to start work in 2008.

UTC’s “refit” will be accomplished with the needs of the environment in mind. Westfield’s plans for the “new UTC” call for fully utilizing sustainable environmental practices, designs and materials in construction.

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Among other things, the reconfigured UTC will have a state-of-the-art theater complex that will be something extraordinary, said Jonathan Bradhurst, senior vice president, U.S. development for Westfield. “It will have 12 to 14 screens,” Bradhurst said. “It will be perfect for the communities of La Jolla and University City. It will have reserve seating, no advertising. It will have numerous food opportunities. It will be the sort of place to see blockbuster films, as well as art house films.”

Westfield’s UTC redevelopment proposal features seven dynamic districts built around open-air courtyards, green spaces and water elements with enhanced parking and public transit. New housing on-site will be within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants and entertainment destinations, including its popular ice skating rink.

“This vision enables us to produce the comprehensive renewal of UTC that our community deserves,” said Bradhurst. “Our customers have asked for a leading-edge experience that preserves the casual outdoor atmosphere, yet delivers more - with the latest concepts and prototypes for today and beyond.”

Bradhurst discussed the timelines on the long-term, phased renovation of UTC shopping center.

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“We’ve been undergoing the entitlement process at the city for over a year now, which includes a formal, public process with a draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report),” he said. “We’d like to start construction the first half of next year (2008) with two major phases, the first opening for the holidays in 2010, and the complete total project finished by Christmas 2012.”

Why renovate such a successful shopping center? Bradhurst likened it to upgrades on an aging home. “If you had a 30-year-old house,” he noted, “you’d want to do it up and make it presentable. We’re trying to mprove our house for the community, for our customers. We just recently opened up a studio and gallery, the UTC Experience, for the public to see what we’re doing, what we’re offering.”

Westfield’s plans for the new UTC have it emerging as the quintessential example of how regional shopping centers can be rejuvenated environmentally and sustainably. Westfield is working with the U.S. Green Building Council on a pilot project that would make Westfield UTC the largest LEED-certified regional shopping center in California. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Westfield’s new UTC proposal has been accepted into the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program, which recognizes projects that successfully protect and enhance the overall health, environment and quality of life in a community.

“The new UTC can be a model for green development in the shopping center industry,” said Bradhurst. “It will merge environmentally advanced designs, world-class architecture and lush native landscaping to create a fresh new shopping, dining and living experience.”

Among the “green” planning elements envisioned for the New UTC are:

  • Solar arrays on rooftops helping to power the shopping center
  • Increased use of recycled water, instead of potable water, for irrigation
  • Energy-efficient lighting programs in partnership with SDG&E
  • Sustainable, recycled, and locally sourced building materials
  • Enhanced bicycle and pedestrian access to the center.

The new UTC shopping center proposal is also forward-thinking in the way it will tie in with transportation and residential components serving the entire region. Said Bradhurst: “There will be up to 250 residential housing units, including up to 10 percent for affordable housing on-site. We’re going to upgrade and revitalize the existing ice rink, which is much beloved by the community. We’ll also be adding a $25 million public transit center, which will be under cover and be state-of-the-art. It will connect to the trolley when it comes through.”
“Westfield is fully committed to revitalizing the 30-year-old UTC so it will re-emerge as a world-class shopping, dining and entertainment destination,” said Westfield President Kenneth Wong. “We welcome the opportunity to reinvest in UTC and bring our global best practices - from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and London to San Diego.”

Bradhurst concluded the new UTC will be a perfect blend of cutting-edge design and practical use of space. “For the new project, we’ve asked the architects to design outdoor spaces around a series of villages or town squares,” he said. “The buildings will become the fabric making those outdoor spaces rich, engaging and delightful.”

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Westfield continues to ask shoppers and the community to share their thoughts on The New UTC by visiting “The UTC Experience” near the former Robinsons-May building. The Experience is an interactive design studio and gallery displaying design concepts, video fly-throughs and architectural renderings.

Westfield filed the Master Planned Development Permit application with the City of San Diego in November 2006. The vision for the new shopping center reflects community input received to date, and sets the stage for the publication of a draft EIR and subsequent environmental review process, anticipated in the next few weeks.

“We hope our neighbors, shoppers and the whole community will visit ‘The UTC Experience’ for a closer look at our ideas and give us feedback,” Bradhurst said. “We look forward to continuing our conversation with the community as we move through the approval process.”

To learn more about UTC shopping center’s expansion and to share comments, visit www.thenewutc.com.


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