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ARCADIA, CA-The Arcadia City Council has approved Los Angeles-based developer Rick Caruso’s plan for an approximately 825,000-sf development called the Shops at Santa Anita on a portion of the 304-acre Santa Anita Park property. The council vote follows the approval of the project in March by the Arcadia Planning Commission.

The Shops at Santa Anita will include upscale shops, outdoor restaurants, landscaping and promenades on the parking lot south of the Santa Anita Racetrack grandstand. At the request of Arcadia residents, the project will include a community performing arts theater where school and community organizations can hold performances. Also at the request of city residents, the project will not include housing of any kind.

According to City of Arcadia documents, the project would include a number of off-site infrastructure improvements in addition to the development itself, primarily traffic-related improvements. The retail development would become the newest use for a site that began as the Santa Anita Park Racetrack in 1934, discontinued racing when World War II broke out and then resumed racing after the war.

The city planning documents describe the project as an open air development to be designed as a Main Street center with retail, dining and theaters. In addition, the project will provide office space for the Arcadia School District.

The city council’s 5-0 approval of the project followed a council meeting that drew a crowd in the hundreds, with some supporting the project and others, including a group called Arcadia First!, opposing it. Arcadia First! is backed in part by Westfield, which owns the nearby Westfield Santa Anita shopping center.

Caruso’s firm, Caruso Affiliated, hopes to begin construction as soon as construction permits are issued, with the project scheduled to open in 2009. Caruso has proposed that his company and Westfield fund a $10-million community foundation in Arcadia “rather than engage in a costly campaign” like the battle that Caruso and General Growth Partners waged in a similar situation in Glendale.

In Glendale, General Growth sought to stop Caruso from building the 475,000-sf Americana at Brand retail, dining and entertainment project near Chicago-based General Growth’s enclosed mall after city officials approved the Caruso development. Caruso and General Growth fought a long battle involving a city referendum on the project and a lawsuit by General Growth that the REIT eventually dropped. The Americana at Brand is now under way.

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