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Westfield's UTC expansion plans get green light

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Westfield Corp. is moving ahead with its plans to bring University Towne Center into the 21st century.

A big step was made July 29 when the San Diego City Council approved the plans for the project, which is expected to cost about $900 million. The next step for Westfield is to obtain construction permits from the city. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin early next year.

The first phase is tentatively scheduled to open in 2011. The second phase will open in 2013.

The plan includes revitalizing the shopping center, which was built in the 1970s, to make it a modern, mixed-use, sustainable shopping center.

"I'm confident the center will be a true 21st-century, urban, walkable, pedestrian-oriented place," said Jonathan Bradhurst, senior vice president for U.S. development. "It's a place people will want to go and can get to easily by walking or catching a bus or train."

On July 29, the San Diego City Council approved Westfield’s $900 million UTC plans. The first phase of the plan is tentatively scheduled to open 2011 with the second phase scheduled for a 2013 debut.

The project includes the addition of approximately 750,000 square feet of retail space for new and remodeled anchor stores, a movie theater, more than 150 new specialty shops and boutiques and new public outdoor plazas.

An issue of contention surrounding the project has been the influx of traffic in the area.

The plan includes the construction of a transit center at UTC to offer an alternative to driving a car to go shopping. It ultimately will service bus and trolley routes, along with any other public transportation systems used in the future.

But shoppers and employees are not the only ones who will benefit, Bradhurst said.

"The transit center is going to service 40,000 residents and office workers within a mile of the center," he said. "It's not all shoppers, but 40,000 others in that urban node need, want and are looking for good alternative transit solutions."

There also are plans to offer at least a 50 percent subsidy to residents and employees of UTC who take advantage of the onsite public transportation.

Westfield Corp. plans to spend an estimated $60 million in traffic improvements to University Towne Center.

Even if many people do take a bus or train, many others still will drive their own vehicles. That demand is anticipated with 2,000 additional parking spaces at UTC.

Bradhurst said the corporation will spend an estimated $60 million in traffic improvements to help reduce the impact of the additional traffic on the roadways.

The plans for UTC also include environmentally friendly design. Already, the plans have received Gold LEED certification at the first level of approval.

The planned green building techniques include the use of as many as 10 acres of solar panels atop the parking decks and "cool roof" techniques to reduce the demand for heating and air conditioning inside.

Other energy saving measures include making all new buildings at least 10 percent more energy efficient than Title 24, and the installation of more than 2,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs and other types of energy-efficient bulbs.

A source of pride for Westfield is its water conservation efforts.

The corporation plans to install a reclaimed water system for irrigation on UTC property.

"We're committed to utilizing recycled water and the reclaimed water system," Bradhurst said. "We're also hooking up other city-owned sites to the reclaimed water system to offset any additional (fresh) water we might need."

The use of indigenous, drought-resistant planting will minimize irrigation needs and the installation of dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals and other water-conserving plumbing fixtures will increase water savings by 25 percent.

In addition to energy and water conservation, other green-building techniques will include using locally sourced building materials, recycling at least 50 percent of all construction waste, using certified sustainable building materials and implementing an extensive recycling program for stores and customers.

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