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Westlake Center Ponders Remodel

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Westlake Mall is as close to a downtown living room as Seattle has. It's midway between Seattle's two big department stores, the headquarters of Nordstrom and the outpost of Macy's. It faces a triangular park that provides half a block of open space in the otherwise built-over commercial center of the city.

The mall itself contains four levels of shopping and is topped by a 25-story office tower. The Starbucks cafe in the plaza outside the mall is said to be the second-busiest in North America. It's also the southern end of the aging Monorail; the boarding platform is on the mall's third level. And the terminus of the South Lake Union Trolley is out the "back door" of the complex,

When Westlake was built, in 1988, it was the first project in the Northwest for the Rouse Company of Columbia, Maryland, where it had won plaudits for sensitive urban planning. In 2004 the entire Rouse company was purchased by General Growth Properties. Earlier this year General spun off 31 properties in 20 states as a separate REIT named Rouse Properties (the Three Rivers Mall in Kelso is the only one in Washington), which suggested to observers that the landlord had bigger plans for Westlake.

Indeed, at a recent industry conference, General showed off plans to expand and remodel the Westlake property. The design shows a new front facing Pine Street, with a squared-off two-story entrance and elevator replacing the current three-story peaked entrance. The major new tenant in the renderings, with over 30,000 sq. ft. of space, is the Spanish "fast-fashion" chain Zara. (A spokeswoman for General Growth would not comment on the report.)

Nordstrom Rack, which might be considered a competitor to Zara, became a tenant in the mall just last year. The renderings shown to the industry conference also included a 7,000 square-foot restaurant on the Monorail level.

-- Ronald Holden

[Photo by Kidder Matthews]

· Westlake Center's owner mulls a major remodel, new tenants [PSBJ]