How an LA Rams training complex could help transform urban sprawl

How an LA Rams training complex could help transform urban sprawl

The San Fernando Valley, once an endless promenade of orange trees in Southern California that evolved into the capital porn of the world in the 1970s and then gave way to big box stores and shopping malls, will now become the home of the 2021 Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams.

As part of a $650 million land deal brokered by team owner Stan Kroenke, Rams executives last week outlined their vision for revitalizing nearly 100 acres in the Woodland Hills neighborhood , in the valley, into a development focused on sport, work and leisure, including a training center. and the team headquarters.

The deal includes two properties owned by Westfield, a shopping center developer that is exiting the U.S. market, as well as an abandoned 13-story building and parking garage owned by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

After the coronavirus pandemic halted the rise of online retail and remote work, crumbling shopping malls and office buildings closed their doors. Vacant properties and their attached parking lots now offer the opportunity to redevelop valuable acreage in neighborhoods like Woodland Hills.

Experts cite the planned Rams complex as an example of commercial reuse in underdeveloped neighborhoods that could mark a comeback for the suburbs. “This is a playbook for transitioning uses in a digital economy and a prime example of these trends,” said Larry J. Kosmont, president and CEO of Kosmont Companies, an El Segundo-based developer , in California.

This type of community revitalization establishes more experience-oriented development while increasing foot traffic by providing services – such as restaurants, specialty retail, sports and wellness opportunities, and green spaces – that keep people away from their homes and their phones. In a way, the Kroenke Group is taking a leaf out of its own playbook. Thirty miles from Woodland Hills, the developer’s SoFi Stadium, where the Rams play and concerts take place year-round, has helped transform the city of Inglewood.

Other sports facilities serving the community include a Partnership in Minneapolis between the Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx basketball teams. The star in Frisco, Texas – the headquarters and training facility of the Dallas Cowboys – includes the Star District, with more than 35 restaurants, a sports therapy and research center, shops, a hotel and specialized services. In Japan, the Tokyo Dome City It 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 powered by 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 devoid of a city center. Woodland Hills and its surrounding neighborhoods have been immortalized in films such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” and “Licorice Pizza,” which capture the valley in the 1970s.

But with the Rams as the centerpiece, along with private financial backing from the Kroenke Group, long-awaited plans to create a walkable community can now come to fruition.

The center of the complex will be Topanga Village, a popular open-air shopping center located next to a ghost mall, the Promenade. The former Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield building will be the Rams’ practice facility, where construction began following last week’s announcement. This development will be a first step in Mr Kroenke’s long-term vision for the area.

Original plans for the Promenade included a 15,000-seat entertainment venue, said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer. “Whether it’s music or sporting events, this project will bring energy here on weeknights and weekends,” he said.

The project could also include up to 1,432 apartments, with commitments for affordable housingas well as stores, restaurants, offices and up to 572 hotel rooms.

Taking the remains of dilapidated buildings and renovating them with attractions such as sports and related entertainment “would be a classic reset of American suburbs,” Mr. Kosmont said. Woodland Hills is the 20th most popular neighborhood in the country for real estate listing searches, attracting a younger generation with new, high-density apartments among million-dollar homes. Yet its outdated commercial infrastructure is filled with empty parking lots around huge city blocks.

The Kroenke Group’s 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, more livable communities and micro-mobility,” he said. “So the Rams coming in just fuels that.”

The neighborhood already has several transportation advantages, including freeway connectivity and a connection to Los Angeles County. Metre metro system, as well as direct access to the 51-mile network LA River Bike Trail, which, when completed, will connect the San Fernando Valley to the rest of the city. Supported by the proliferation of ride-sharing apps and a generation that refrains from driving carsthis model favors infrastructure adapted to pedestrians with a 24-hour activity cycle.

“You saw the power of sport to bring people together and spur urban development, whether it was around stadiums or training facilities,” Mr. Demoff said.

Similar to the concept of a 15-minute city, this sports-centered community model could be a game-changer for a neighborhood like Woodland Hills, reducing long commutes and carbon emissions. However, 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 just see it as more traffic.”

He remembers the valley in the 1950s, when it was farmland with “lots of wide open spaces” and Rocketdyne headquarters, where rocket engines were built to send astronauts to the Moon.

Still others see the Rams’ announcement as a monumental opportunity to improve the western San Fernando Valley, where nearly 95,000 households in marginalized neighborhoods surrounding wealthy Woodland Hills struggle to afford housing. food on their table – more than any other region in the county, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Food Insecurity Report 2021.

“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 might be a gift here, 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 the announcement of last week in Woodland Hills. In 2020, the Rams began to be certified #RamsHouse, a small business initiative to support entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area.

Ms. Decker hopes that the presence of the team will encourage local hiring and reduce the number of trips to the city.

“People are happier and more satisfied working closer to their children and families, and when you work and live in the same neighborhood, you have a better investment and you care more about your neighborhood,” he said. she declared.

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David B.Otero

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