Westfield Culver City center opens

LOS ANGELES A 19-month and $180 million renovation has turned the old Fox Hills Mall into a modern-day shopping spectacular.

The anticipation was palpable among prospective shoppers in the area.

"I know I'm going to shop at that new mall," said Tiffany Iyazmin Harris. "They have a lot of stores -- Coach and all that -- so I'm excited."

Culver City resident Kendell Tomlin shared in the excitement.

"I'm loving it up in there man, it's nice, I went in there to get one thing and I come out with two bags, so you see how spending goes," said Tomlin.

It is bad timing for the opening of the new shopping center, as unemployment hits an all time high and many consumers tighten their belts.

Getting people to spend is only one of the challenges the mall faces, the shopping center needs to find new tenants to rent vacant commercial space.

An empty, gone-out-of-business, Circuit City sitting across the street from the new mall serves as a sobering reminder of the current economic reality.

But those with the new shopping center are optimistic about what their location will do for their bottom line.

Zanne Auger-Daniels, spokeswoman for the Westfield Culver City Shopping Center, said the mall was almost 90 percent leased, even before it opened its doors.

The mall has two new additions that serve as anchor stores, a Target and a Best Buy, which are expected to bring more foot traffic to the entire mall.

"I'll be here a little bit more, especially if they put Best Buy in here. So that's cool, that's local. You know we love electronics, so I'll be spending," said Tomlin.

The excitement of shoppers and an improvement in retail sales in September are lending to the optimism of economic and retail experts, who say sales are proving better than expected and may usher in a positive holiday shopping season.

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