'Vertical mall' plan avoids urban sprawl

MID-WILSHIRE DISTRICT Never mind the traffic on the ground -- a Los Angeles developer is looking toward the sky with plans to build a vertical mall seven stories tall, with as many as 100 stores, rooftop restaurants and theaters.

The site is near the bustling intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Vermont Ave. The Metro Red Line station is a short walk away.

"We have enough stores," said passerby Judy Iott. "We have The Grove, we have downtown, Beverly Center, so I don't about the necessity of having another mall, and half the stores empty because of the economy, it's kind of foolish."

"I'm not thrilled about tall buildings in L.A.," said passerby Ruth Ebener. "We still have enough room laterally. This is a huge city, geographically, and although I'd rather have something there than an empty lot, I'm not sure a seven-story building is it."

Urban planners disagree, saying vertical is the way to go in L.A., especially in highly congested neighborhoods, because Southern California is just not as land-rich as it once was.

"It does make sense, in my view, to have commercial facilities there," said Anastasia Loukiatou-Sideris, UCLA Dept. of Urban Planning. "And it is not a model that has not been used. Go and look to European cities, Asian cities, you have these multi-story structures. As long as the design is more of an urban design."

The $200-million mall includes shops that are open to the sidewalk to encourage foot traffic and perhaps more shopping.

"I think I'd be happy maybe with three stories, but seven is like, OK, I'm not even going to look at the top floor, and I wouldn't shop on the top floor," said Ebener.


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