New shops, restaurants and 120 apartments planned

Southern California real estate developer Rick Caruso has announced plans for significant changes to The Commons shopping center, the crown jewel of dining and retail in Calabasas that opened to the public in 1998.

Although the past quarter-century has taken some of the shine off the popular commercial venue on Calabasas Road, The Commons remains an important piece of the Caruso multi-billion-dollar real estate portfolio, which includes 15 retail, residential, hotel and office properties from Marina Del Rey to Santa Barbara.

An application for the upgrades was submitted to the Calabasas Planning Division earlier this month. No timetable was given for final approval and start of construction.

“We have been delighted by the way Calabasas has embraced The Commons since we opened our doors 25 years ago, making it a familiar and beloved destination for guests of all ages,” said Chris Robertson, Caruso vice president.

But the time for change has come, she said.

The work calls for removal of the Regency Theatres—which began a downward slide during the pandemic and never fully recovered—and the construction of new stores, restaurants and up to 119 apartment homes at two different sites on the 25-acre property just east of the Calabasas civic center.

Out with the old, in with the new
The 33,000-square-foot theater was taken over by Regency last year when former owner Regal went bankrupt. Caruso retained ownership of the theater lease, and wants tear down the building and replace it with 2,000 square feet of store space and other features on the first floor, and five levels containing up to 101 apartments above. Residents will have access to underground parking and rooftop amenities that include a swimming pool.

The theater at The Commons, the only movie house in Calabasas, opened as an Edwards Cinema in 1998. Later branded as Regal Edwards, the theater closed in September 2022 following a bankruptcy by Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas. Independent operator Regency Theatres reopened the screens on Christmas weekend last year as the Regency Calabasas Commons, and the theater remains in operation. No closing date has been announced

A separate component of the makeover calls for the placement of four new structures in the parking lot in front of the theater tethered by a grassy open space and stroll-friendly walking paths. The buildings will be one-to-three stories high with 8-10 new boutique shops and three-to-five new restaurants on the first floor. A combined 18 apartments will be on top.

The new elements will introduce a total of 24,000 square feet of new retail space, plus the homes, to a segment of the shopping center collectively called Commons Lane. The north and south edges of The Commons will remain untouched.

The homes will count toward the 354 new units in the city’s housing element, a plan demanded by the California Department of Housing and Community Development to meet the growing need for homes across state. In a requirement of the city, 12 of the almost 120 new homes in the plan will be so-called inclusionary, or affordable units.

Although the project is still in the planning and approval stages, the idea of a theater take-down and the addition of new homes and shops in the parking lot came into focus following a series of visioning sessions over the past 18 months with members of the public that included residents, homeowner association presidents and other city leaders. The meetings were held at King’s Fish House at The Commons and at the Senior Center and Founders Hall at the Calabasas Civic Center.

Robertson said Calabasas residents “dedicated significant time and energy to share what they love about The Commons and their priorities for the future.”

Taken together, the changes will bring a series of fresh overtones to the aging shopping center that include an open play area amenable to relaxation, community events and summer outdoor movies for families, and curated small shops in a Euro-Mediterranean-like setting for fans of retail. New upscale restaurants will be part of the mix.

Caruso formula
The construction will remind Caruso aficionados of Palisades Village, where shoppers stroll among a variety of small stores, dine in quaint restaurants, and relax on family-friendly green open spaces in the forward-thinking retail center that opened in 2018. Think also of the Americana at Brand, a Caruso mixed-use center in Glendale, only on a much smaller scale.

“Commons Lane is drawn from the spirit of Calabasas, preserving the best of The Commons today while ensuring it remains vibrant for future generations,” Robertson said.

“I think it’s going to be a good improvement combining additional retail, more restaurants and even apartments,” said Joe De Tuno, president of the Avanti Homeowners Association, another newer development that is within walking distance of The Commons.

“I saw the plans. I think they’re good, I think it’s a good start,” De Tuno said.

A spokesperson said the project represents a “sizable investment” by Caruso, but would not give an exact cost.