The San Fernando Valley, once an endless stretch of orange groves in Southern California, evolved into the porn capital of the world in the 1970s and then gave way to big-box retail stores and shopping malls, it will now become the home of the 2021 season’s Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams.
In a $650 million land deal by team owner Stan Kroenke, Rams executives laid out their vision last week to revitalize nearly 100 acres in the valley’s Woodland Hills neighborhood into a sports-focused development, where live, work and play, including a practice facility. and team headquarters.
The deal includes two properties owned by Westfield, a shopping center developer that is withdrawing from the U.S. market, as well as an abandoned 13-story building and a parking lot owned by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.
After the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the adoption of online retail and remote work, blighted shopping malls and office buildings closed their doors. Vacant properties and their adjoining parking lots now offer the opportunity to redevelop valuable square footage in neighborhoods like Woodland Hills.
Experts point to the planned Rams complex as an example of commercial reuse in underdeveloped neighborhoods that could mark the return of the suburbs. “This is the playbook for transitioning uses in a digital economy and a prime example of those trends,” said Larry J. Kosmont, president and CEO of Kosmont Companies, a developer based in El Segundo, California.
This type of community revitalization establishes development that is more experience-oriented while increasing foot traffic by offering services (such as restaurants, specialty retail shops, sports and wellness opportunities, and green spaces) that get people out of their homes and their phones. In some ways, the Kroenke Group is taking a page from its own playbook. Thirty miles from Woodland Hills, the developer’s SoFi Stadium, where the Rams play and host concerts year-round, has helped transform the city of Inglewood.
Other community service sports facilities include a camaraderie in Minneapolis between the Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx basketball teams. The star in Frisco, Texas, the headquarters and practice facility of the Dallas Cowboys, includes the star district, with more than 35 restaurants, a sports research and therapy center, shops, a hotel and specialized services. In Japan, the Tokyo Dome City offers activities and services around the Yomiuri Giants baseball stadium, including an amusement park, more than 70 restaurants, an anime store, a haunted house, and a spa that supplies water from an underground spring.
Although the east side of the San Fernando Valley is home to Warner Bros. studios, Walt Disney Studios and Universal City, which encompasses the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, the west valley has long been a sprawl of businesses and highways that lack a city center. Woodland Hills and its surrounding neighborhoods have been immortalized in films such as “Boogie Nights” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” which capture the valley in the 1970s.
But with the Rams as the centerpiece, along with private financial support from the Kroenke Group, long-awaited plans to create a walkable community can now become a reality.
The center of the complex will be Topanga Village, a popular open-air shopping center next to a ghost shopping center, the Promenade. The former Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield building will be the Rams’ practice facility, where construction began after last week’s announcement. This development will be a first step in Mr. Kroenke’s long-term vision for the land.
Original plans for the Promenade include a 15,000-seat entertainment venue, said Kevin Demoff, Rams chief operating officer. “Whether it’s music or sporting events, this project will bring energy here during the week and on the weekends,” he said.
The project could also incorporate up to 1,432 apartments, with commitments to affordable housingas well as shops, restaurants, offices and up to 572 hotel rooms.
Taking the remains of outdated buildings and modernizing them with attractions like sports and related entertainment “would be a classic reboot of suburban America,” Kosmont said. Woodland Hills is the 20th most popular neighborhood in the country for home listing searches, attracting a younger generation with new high-density apartments among million-dollar homes. However, its aging commercial infrastructure is filled with empty parking lots around huge blocks.
The Kroenke Group development fits with Los Angeles’ plans for a different environment, said Bob Blumenfield, a City Council member whose district includes Woodland Hills.
“We’re moving from the 1970s model to a planned environment where you have smaller blocks, more walkable and livable communities and micromobility,” he said. “So the Rams coming in just fuels that.”
The neighborhood already has several transportation advantages, including freeway connectivity and a link to Los Angeles County. Meter subway system as well as direct access to the 51 miles Los Angeles River Bike Trail, which when completed will connect the San Fernando Valley with the rest of the city. Driven by the proliferation of ride-hailing apps and a generation that refrains from driving carsThis model favors pedestrian-friendly infrastructure with a 24-hour activity cycle.
“They’ve seen the power of sports to bring people together and spur urban development, whether it’s around stadiums or practice facilities,” Mr. Demoff said.
Similar to the 15-minute city concept, this sports-focused community model could be a game-changer for a neighborhood like Woodland Hills, reducing long commutes and reducing carbon emissions. Still, some residents have concerns.
“It’s going to be exciting for a lot of people,” said Jon Saul, a Los Angeles native who moved to Woodland Hills in 1958. “But some of us look at it as just an increase in traffic.”
He remembers the valley in the 1950s, when it was farmland with “lots of big open spaces” and the rocketdyne headquarters, where rocket engines were built to send astronauts to the moon.
But others see the Rams’ announcement as a monumental opportunity to improve the western San Fernando Valley, where nearly 95,000 households in underserved neighborhoods surrounding affluent Woodland Hills struggle to put food on the table, more than any other. county region, according to Los Angeles County Public Health 2021 Food Insecurity Report.
“We are all excited to have the Rams in the neighborhood,” said Debbie Decker, executive director of the West Valley Food Pantry, which provides groceries to thousands of families living in poverty. “I think this could be a gift, a golden egg.”
As part of a regional approach to community investment, Rams players and cheerleaders volunteered at the food pantry during the Rams Community Blitz Day of Service, which began after last week’s announcement in Woodland Hills. In 2020, the Rams began Certified #RamsHouse, an initiative for small businesses to support entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area.
Ms Decker hopes the team’s presence will promote local hiring and reduce the number of daily trips into the city.
“People are happier and more content working closer to their children and families, and when you work and live in the same area, you have a better investment and care more about your neighborhood,” he said.