The Westfield UTC Mall continued its $600 million expansion of retail and housing options last week, opening a new-and-expanded Nordstrom with a full-service restaurant inside.
At least 90 stores are expected to open in November as part of the 401,000 square-foot second phase of the UTC mall’s expansion. Additionally, the renovation features new landscaping, a now-open 1,000-space parking garage, and an updated transit center. The 145,000 square-foot Nordstrom, which is the first shop to open in the expansion, is directly across from the retailer’s old location that first opened in 1984.
Nordstrom now houses Bazille, a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar enclosed within the department store. Additionally, eight luxury boutiques showcase brands including Gucci, Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Y/Project. The retailer opened a branch of its clearance store, Nordstrom Rack, in La Jolla last year. It hopes to entice customers seeking a non-traditional shopping experience with services such as curbside pickup, reserve-and-try, and same-day delivery.
Other stores slated to open this year include shops such as Vineyard Vines and Allen Edmonds and restaurants such as Shake Shack, Din Tai Fung, and True Food Kitchen. Shake Shack is expected to open its doors on October 20. Some spots, such as Din Tai Fung, will not open until 2018.
Because new retail and dining will drive more traffic to the mall, Westfield will also switch to a paid parking model next year. Shoppers will only get two hours of free parking, as opposed to the unlimited parking they currently enjoy. 24 Hour Fitness members will get three free hours, and ArcLight Cinemas moviegoers will get four. Westfield UTC manager Ryan Perry believes this move should reduce the number of transit users and local workers who currently park at UTC before boarding a bus, including UCSD students who park at the mall to board buses to campus.
“P.F. Chang (restaurant) parks in our lot,” Perry told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “[UC San Diego] students love to park at UTC and go to school. For that reason, we need to control parking and we’re doing it in a thoughtful way.”
Attempting to control the number of visitors is an unusual move for a shopping center, considering the state of the retail industry. Brick-and-mortar shops are being replaced by online retailers such as Amazon; more than 6,400 physical stores have shut down this year and dozens of major retailers, including Payless and Toys “R” Us have filed for bankruptcy.
However, Westfield UTC has been relatively unaffected by the rise of online shopping. In fact, Amazon opened its first physical bookstore (outside the Seattle area) in UTC. Even as major retailers desert other San Diego locations—Nordstrom and Macy’s have abandoned Westfield Horton Plaza and Macy’s shuttered its Westfield Mission Valley anchor—UTC remains an example of how retailers can still make malls appealing to shoppers.
Westfield has seen so much success in University City that UTC is now slated for a third phase of redevelopment. The first phase of the UTC renovation added ArcLight Cinemas, 24 Hour Fitness, and restaurants and stores such as Tender Greens. It cost $1 billion and opened in 2012.
Construction began last month on a $200 million, 23-story apartment building that will contain 300 studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments. The complex will replace part of the parking lot near Macy’s on Lombard Place. The residential development is Westfield’s first worldwide. Greystar Real Estate, which also operates Avana La Jolla and Terraces at La Jolla Village Apartments, will manage the completed mixed-use, residential-retail community.
The Westfield apartment complex is expected to be completed by 2019. It and the upcoming LUX UTC residential development (formerly known as Monte Verde) will have easy access to the San Diego Trolley Blue Line, which will extend to the UTC Transit Center in 2022.
Rohan Grover is a staff writer for The Triton.