The Collection at RiverPark goes live
Master-planned retail development breathes new life into the region’s shopping, entertainment options
By Michael Sullivan 11/15/2012
It’s on the same level of quality as any Caruso project, like The Grove in Los Angeles, said Andres Friedman, vice president of development and acquisitions at Shea Properties, over lunch at the recently opened Kabuki Japanese Restaurant at The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard.
If one isn’t familiar with The Grove, you could call it a virtual Disneyland for shoppers, foodies and entertainment seekers. And similar to The Grove, the long-awaited Collection at RiverPark follows the lifestyle center model, featuring entertainment, retail, eateries, a variety of services, open space with fountains, parks and playgrounds, and quality art. The reality of this development, however, is that by no means is it any sort of generic shopping center. As Friedman put it, it is a regional destination targeted for the 500,000 people living throughout Ventura County, from Ojai to Thousand Oaks. And for Shea Properties and its partners, it’s all in the details.
The Collection at RiverPark resembles no other shopping district in the county. Though the days of constructing enclosed shopping malls have passed, strip malls will always continue to be built for urban/suburban infill, and old and downtown districts will always have their appeal, the draw of the lifestyle center model will be a major contender in the county’s shopping scene. And at a $250 million investment for the 60-acre development, it should.
Opening at The Collection at RiverPark
After four years of speculation as to when The Collection would actually go online, the time has finally come and it’s happening at a rapid pace. Target was the first anchor store to open earlier this year. Century Theatres opened in October with state-of-the-art technology, which includes NextGen: state-of-the art cinema concept with wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor screens, Barco DLP projectors; and RealD 3D: custom JBL sound systems, an XD auditorium and self-serve concession stands. Kabuki Japanese Restaurant opened earlier this month. Panera, Five Guys Burger and Fries, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, Color Me Mine paint-your-own-pottery-studio and Massage Envy will all open this month. Anchor stores Whole Foods Market and REI outdoor sporting goods, along with Starbucks and Gandolfo’s Deli New York Delicatessen will be open by spring 2013. Gen Korean BBQ and Famous Dave’s BBQ have also signed leases to open at The Collection. The Yard House, which would take up 12,000 square feet, has also been proposed for the center; a public meeting will be held to discuss the Yard House at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29, in the community room at Oxnard City Hall, 300 W. Third St. New construction has already begun for Ulta Beauty at The Collection, which will move across the freeway from West Esplanade Drive. Once the anchors agreed to open, apparently, many more were ready to jump on board.
“Early in the year, there were signs the economy was turning around,” Friedman said. “The cinema and REI really wanted to open sooner than later. That’s why we pushed forward.”
Shea Properties had slowed down construction in 2009 as the economy slumped. Shea linked up with CenterCal Properties and Oaktree Capital Management, which both invested in the project and got construction moving again. REI, however, had been ready to move in the day it was supposed to be set for completion in 2008.
“We did originally announce our opening in 2008,” said Bethany Holly, spokeswoman for REI. “That basically delayed due to the developer delays.”
Holly said that the market for REI is strong in Ventura County, with enough members as a part of its co-op to justify a storefront. REI opens four to five stores annually, including a location in Santa Barbara last year.
The process of marketing The Collection to tenants is ongoing, Friedman said. With 650,000 square feet of retail and only 40 percent leased to date, Friedman said that he expects the leasing process to fill the entire project will take around 18 months. All construction will be complete by March 2013.
Cinemark Century Plaza Riverpark 16 held its grand opening Friday, Oct. 26. It features state-of-the-art technology, including Next Gen cinema concept and RealD 3D sound systems.
“We are trying to make this place unique,” Friedman said. “We are in conversations with local restaurateurs and to open a local franchise. Gandolfo’s New York Deli is going in next to the theater and opening in April. They are a local franchisee of a national chain. We are reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce to find those who want to open a business here, open a local restaurant or want office space.”
The Collection also has 58,000 square feet of office space, with tenants Lawyer’s Title and Escrow leasing 8,000 square feet.
The Collection’s economic, environmental impact
For this master-planned development, which started with single-family homes and apartments at RiverPark, Shea Properties and its partners took into account every detail of the project. From The Collection’s unique architectural design by Altoon Partners LLC to the developers’ goal of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for 80 percent of the center, the developers have gone to great lengths to make it a unique experience while being environmentally responsible.
Frank Bauer of Santa Monica works on a large-scale mosaic of ocean life.
When it comes to gaining LEED certification, The Collection is a sustainable site development that focuses on energy efficiency, water conservation, materials selection (recycled products as well as purchasing 10 percent of construction materials within a 500-mile radius to keep emissions low) and waste management (75 percent of waste recycled), among other green initiatives. The project is also environmentally friendly with its 1,125 trees — nine species in all.
But The Collection at Riverpark isn’t just unique in design and construction, Shea Properties has spent around $1 million on art, bringing in seven artists for 18 individual art installations. Artists include Frank Bauer with his ceramic tile murals and benches and tile sidewalk medallions, and Michael Amescua with his cut metal sculptures. Shea Properties has also partnered with the National Park Service to create a massive mural of the Channel Islands on the outside wall of REI. To boot, the mural inside Kabuki is all hand-painted. Friedman said that the proprietors of The Collection must meet a high standard of quality. Such a mural speaks for itself.
The biggest impact, however, some would argue, is the investment in the community. Construction jobs are estimated to have created more than 800 full-time jobs. Friedman said much, if not all, of the labor was contracted through local unions. Permanent, direct retail and property management jobs are estimated to be more than 2,200, and that’s just for the first phase of the project that will be open by December. New and direct jobs are said by the developer to total more than 3,300.
Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend of Ojai created this ironwork fountain.
This project is like nothing Ventura County has ever seen. It’s sure to be a big attraction for shoppers and entertainment lovers alike. But this grand project will have impacts throughout the county. One of the anchors, Cinemark Century Plaza RiverPark 16, has already shut down the theaters in east Ventura, impacting nearby restaurateurs and other operators.
“Obviously, it’s a real measurable impact of closing of the theater on Johnson Drive,” said Jeffrey Lambert, Ventura’s community development director. “They opened a new theater, state of the art. The impact is really pretty measurable. We need to double down on our existing parts of town and focus on built-up parts of Ventura, reinvigorating them. We are in a great, great location. How do we continue to keep downtown successful? Our tourism is an important part of our economy.”
Lambert said it’s a good time to be discussing this as the city reviews the citywide economic strategy.
The Collection also competes with Downtown Oxnard and its cinema. But Abel Magaña, the executive director of Oxnard Downtown Management District, had a unique perspective on the situation, and that is, mainly, that Downtown Oxnard is unique and can’t really be compared to The Collection.
Whole Foods Market is set to open in spring 2013.
“I do think [The Collection] is good for Oxnard, for the community in general,” he said. “It’s validation of our community for [Shea] to come in, and I think there is a market for that. At the same time, we do not see it as a direct threat. Downtown Oxnard is authentic. People come out here for the entertainment district. This district came about organically.”
He said that the people who will visit The Collection aren’t necessarily the same people who come to Downtown Oxnard, and the reasons for their visits will also differ. People who visit Downtown Oxnard do so because it’s local and it’s close to home. It serves a different purpose than The Collection.
Magaña also said that business owners as well the management district are reinvigorating the area with diverse entertainment options, from screenings with the Oxnard Film Society to live music.
Because of a moratorium placed on new movie theater construction at the time The Collection was planned, the developers agreed to pay $9 million to assist the downtown Oxnard movie theater. To date, $1 million has been paid to revamp the theater. Magaña said he hopes that Mayor-elect Tim Flynn will broach the subject at the City Council with the hopes that the rest of the money may be infused into the downtown district as a whole.
The Collection at RiverPark will also be featuring different events throughout the year. The next big event will be a canned food drive for FOOD Share, Dec. 7-9. The goal is to raise 50,000 pounds in three days.
The Can-Tree Collection event will be a family-friendly weekend. Families who donate canned goods will be able to get free photos with Santa and will receive free meal tickets. There will also be cookie and ornament decorating as well as a raffle for a $500 gift card to Target.