Upscale Manhattan Village Mall Replaces Former Chevron Stockyard – Daily Breeze
Frank Bennett was busy growing melons and lima beans on his farm in El Segundo in 1911 when representatives from the Standard Oil Co. approached him about buying his land.
The company needed to build a refinery in Southern California to ease the load from its Richmond facility in the Bay Area. Bennett’s 840 acres did the trick, giving the company an ideal location with room not only for a refinery, but also for a large stockyard for storage.
The oversized tanks would hold large amounts of fuel for steam engines and steamships. As more efficient and powerful methods of propelling ships overtook steam, tanks suddenly became less useful. Eventually, the tank farm became obsolete.
But that didn’t stop it from gracing 37 acres of Manhattan Beach’s northeast landscape for the next half-century as nearby towns grew and filled in around it.
Finally, in the early 1970s, Standard Oil, through its subsidiary Chevron Land and Development Co., began exploring the possibilities of developing not only the tank farm site, but the entire 187-acre that he owned in Manhattan Beach. He began studying proposals for the project in 1973.
As outlined in plans drawn up with two developers, Alexander Haagen Development and Broadmoor Homes, the project, named Manhattan Village, would be split into four separate developments: 83 acres for residential housing, 39 acres for leisure space, 28 acres for a business park. and the aforementioned 37 acres for a commercial and retail area.
This land, on the east side of Sepulveda Boulevard, south of Rosecrans Avenue, would become the Manhattan Village shopping center, developed by Haagen. The land was dedicated in 1979 and its first phase, an outdoor section including a Ralphs supermarket, Sav-On Drug and several small businesses, opened in 1980.
Construction of the enclosed mall, which would be on a much smaller scale than others in the South Bay, began in September. Its two mainstays were both department stores: Buffums opened in 1981 and Bullocks a year later in 1982. (Buffums would go bankrupt in 1990 and Bullocks was consolidated into Macy’s in 1996.)
The Mann Theaters chain also announced that it would open a six-screen cineplex on the property. Its first two theaters began operating on June 12, 1981, showing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams”. Pacific Theaters acquired Mann in 1996, and Manhattan Village theaters operated as Pacific’s Manhattan Village 6 until the complex closed on May 28, 2012.
The new mall might be smaller than most, but its department stores and carefully selected specialty retailers targeted a specific group of consumers: upscale residents of beach towns, particularly in its hometown of Manhattan. Developers even trucked in 2,000 grown trees at a cost of nearly $1 million to make the mall’s exterior look fully formed from the start.
The mall changed hands several times after Haagen sold it for $70 million to the Pacific Telesis pension fund in 1990. It underwent its first renovation in 1992.
One of its most anticipated and influential tenants arrived when the Apple Store opened at the mall on July 30, 2005. It was the first and remains the only Apple Store operating in the South Bay area / Harbor.
A year after it opened in 2006, its current owner, Deutsche Bank-owned real estate trust company RREEF America LLC, began discussions with the City of Manhattan Beach about a long-term development plan for the mall. and its surroundings. RREEF had purchased the mall in 2004.
“Long range” was the effective term, as her owners and Manhattan city fathers would continue to negotiate the proposal for the next six years. In 2012, a revised plan was made public. It would include new parking lots, an expanded outdoor shopping area known as the Village Shops, and the construction of a new building that would allow Macy’s to consolidate its two outlets at the mall into one store.
It took two years before the Manhattan Beach City Council approved the $110 million plan in December 2014. The group Sensible Citizens of Manhattan Beach sued the developers in an attempt to stop the expansion. A settlement was reached with them in 2017 and work began in earnest on the redesign.
According to plans, the Apple Store has become the focal point of Manhattan Village. The mall’s new central courtyard features a fountain and a concierge desk, both located across from the Apple location.
Don Ziss, senior managing director of the mall’s operating company, Jones Lang LaSalle, told The Daily Breeze in 2019 that the Apple Store serves as a regional draw for the otherwise regionally-focused mall.
The cost of the project rose to around $250 million as various other improvements, such as converting a Wells Fargo Bank branch into two restaurants, were thrown into the mix.
At the time of this writing, the mall’s interior redesign is complete, new car parks, including electric car charging stations, have opened, and much of the exterior retail development in the village is complete. The entire project should be completed by the end of the year.
Plans for the former Fry’s Electronics site at the northwest corner of Rosecrans and Sepulveda are underway. The entire Fry’s chain closed in February 2021.
Sources: Beach Reporter Archives. Daily Breeze Archives. “El Segundo: Seventy-Five Years: A Pictorial History of El Segundo, California,” by Eileen Curry Hunter, H2 Limited Publishers, 1991. Los Angeles Times Archive. “Pacific’s Manhattan Village 6,” Cinema Treasures website.