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LOS ANGELES-A $65-million plan to convert an aging shopping center in Downtown Long Beach into a residential and open-air retail facility won approval of the Long Beach city council late last night.

Receiving the council’s approval marks a huge step forward for Cleveland-based Developers Diversified Realty’s efforts to demolish the existing mall to make way for 460,000 sf of new retail space, a hotel and 328 units of sorely needed Downtown housing. Providing there are no surprises, DDR officials say they could begin demolition work as early as next month and begin construction in the first quarter of 2001.

The project is a cornerstone of Long Beach’s efforts to revitalize its Downtown area. Supporters say the new retail space and hotel would create hundreds or even thousands of jobs and pump millions of dollars annually into the city’s treasury. Meantime, the 328 new housing units would boost efforts to make the CBD a 24-hour-a-day community where people could live, work and play.

The project would also mark another milestone in DDR’s expansion on the West Coast. Last month, it paid San Diego-based REIT Burnham Pacific Properties Inc. $355 million for 15 retail projects in California and other western states.

DDR is a shopping center REIT with a portfolio of nearly 50 million sf, about 4 million of which is in the West.

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