The Promenade – A Once-Lively Shopping Mall Now Left to Decay
In the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, a shopping mall that was once a bustling hub of activity has now become a desolate site of decay. The Promenade, formerly known as Westfield Promenade, is a ghost town of stores and shops now long gone.
Located just two blocks from the thriving Westfield Topanga Mall, The Promenade was once a popular destination for shoppers and visitors alike.
However, the mall’s decline began in the early 2000s, with many stores closing down due to a lack of business and competition from nearby malls.
Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and several adjacent properties now own the Promenade. While there have been rumors of plans to redevelop the site, nothing concrete has been announced as of yet.
For now, The Promenade remains a bleak reminder of what once was, a lonely and forgotten structure surrounded by memories of a time when it was a lively and bustling shopping destination.
Woodland Hills Promenade: A Fashionable Past and Evolution
In 1973, the Woodland Hills Promenade opened its doors as a high-end shopping mall featuring J. W. Robinson’s, Bullocks Wilshire, and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchor stores.
This retail development, spanning 34 acres, was part of Kaiser Aetna’s grand commercial-retail-residential plan for their portion of the former Warner Ranch, now known as Warner Center.
Managed by Coldwell Banker and constructed by Ernest W. Hahn, Inc., the mall’s first anchor store, Robinson’s, welcomed customers in March 1973. Five months later, both Saks and Bullock’s Wilshire opened their doors to shoppers.
Over the years, the mall underwent several transformations. In 1990, the Bullocks Wilshire store was renamed I. Magnin, which, in turn, became a Bullock’s Men’s store in 1995. By 1996, it had transformed into Macy’s.
However, the mall’s most significant evolution occurred after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The quake allowed Saks Fifth Avenue to close its underperforming store, which was demolished to make way for the addition of the AMC Theatre, which opened in 1996.
Westfield Promenade: From a Shopping Destination to a Site of Neglect
Acquired by the O’Connor Group from Pan American Properties in 1989, the Westfield Promenade in Woodland Hills underwent several ownership changes in the following years.
In 1997, Simon Property Group briefly took over the mall, but it was sold to Westfield America, Inc., in 1998. After the acquisition, the mall was renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Promenade,” but the “Shoppingtown” name was dropped in June 2005.
The mall’s fortunes fluctuated over the years. The addition of the AMC Theatre during renovations following the 1994 Northridge earthquake and further renovations in 2001, along with new retailers and restaurants, briefly rekindled interest in the center.
However, the redevelopment of the Westfield Topanga in the mid-2000s overshadowed the Promenade, leading tenants such as Barnes & Noble Booksellers to leave.
Macy’s also shut down its two stores in the Promenade in 2015, further compounding the mall’s woes. In addition, Westfield purchased the remaining properties within the mall area it did not own by September 2015, allowing the company to sell the property as a complete package for other uses.
However, tenants filed a lawsuit against Westfield, accusing the company of allowing the property to deteriorate.
In July 2016, Westfield informed tenants of their plan to close the mall’s interior soon. With an estimated vacancy rate of over 80%, the company was reportedly considering replacing the mall with upscale apartments.
Westfield’s Plan for Promenade 2035 Draws Criticism from Community
In October 2016, Westfield Corporation announced a grand $1.5 billion redevelopment plan to transform the Promenade mall into a mixed-use residential and retail development, intending to open the project in stages between 2020 and 2035.
The proposed project, Promenade 2035, would include 1,400 luxury housing units, a grocery store, a pharmacy, a hotel, an office complex, and an entertainment and sports center. The new development was set to replace the ailing mall and reignite interest.
However, as the project moved forward, residents of the surrounding community voiced their concerns about the development plan.
Many argued that the inadequate transportation infrastructure in the area would not be able to support the additional traffic that the new development would bring. In addition, concerns were raised that the development would cause significant delays and worsen traffic congestion in the area.
Despite the criticisms, Westfield remained committed to the Promenade 2035 project, planning to relocate exterior tenants, such as the AMC Promenade 16, to the Westfield Topanga’s The Village expansion while the mall’s interior was being demolished.
However, in December 2017, Westfield Corporation was acquired by French commercial real estate company Unibail-Rodamco, later renamed Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.
AMC Theatres Survives Pandemic and Completes Relocation to Westfield Topanga
In February 2020, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, AMC Theatres had announced its plans to relocate a few blocks away to the nearby Westfield Topanga location where Sears had once stood.
However, due to the pandemic, the construction at Westfield Topanga was delayed, causing a nearly two-year delay in AMC’s move.
After the pandemic severity subsided, AMC reopened almost all of its shuttered theaters in March 2021, but the relocation to Westfield Topanga remained on hold. The AMC Promenade finally closed permanently on June 1, 2022, and the new cinema at Westfield Topanga opened its doors the next day.
Future of The Promenade Mall
The AMC relocation was not the only change happening in the area. In December 2020, the Los Angeles City Council approved Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s ambitious “Promenade 2035” plan to replace the dead mall with a new development including a sports arena and two hotels, a 28-story office tower, and more than 1,400 new apartments. The development was dubbed a “mini-city…within this larger city.”
The news of the sale of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s commercial properties in the United States made headlines in 2021, with reports that the dead mall would also be put on the market.
In March 2022, an unnamed investor group acquired the property, which was later revealed as sports owner and real estate developer Stan Kroenke.
The property’s future is set to be transformed into a mixed-use development and practice facility for the Los Angeles Rams.