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Where In The World Is Lee Wagman?

What's a guy to do when, after eight years of managing one of the industry's highest-profile portfolios of retail and entertainment properties, his firm gets out of the business? Ask Lee Wagman.

The 54-year-old retail maven formed a new Los Angeles company, AGC Realty Advisors, this year after Trizec Properties, formerly TrizecHahn Corp., became an office REIT and started selling its retail interests. Wagman, who developed and upgraded 30 major retail properties while president of the firm's retail and entertainment group, left Trizec in February.

Now he is planning a $1 billion signature, mixed-used planned community called Las Lomas in the Newhall Pass that cuts through the San Fernando Valley. “It's a career-like undertaking,” he says. The project includes 5,800 housing units, ranging from $300,000 loft apartments to $1 million single-family homes.

Some 500,000 square feet of planned retail space will serve residents of this planned 600-acre community that will be developed in stages over eight to ten years, according to Wagman, the principal. Financial backers include Palmer Investments, a residential developer, and Southbrook Equities, a financial services firm.

“The retail complex will be the centerpiece of a new urban village in Los Angeles County,” he says. “It will be the downtown.” Retail outlets will occupy the bottom two floors of an eight-story structure. A two-story parking garage and four floors holding 400 loft-style apartments will sit atop the retail space. In addition to popular retail outlets, Wagman envisions entertainment-based tenants and restaurants.

The project is currently about halfway through a two-year permitting process, with groundbreaking at least one year away. When completed, half the development's acreage will remain open space, Wagman says.

Among Wagman's most prominent retail projects for Trizec were Hollywood and Highland in Hollywood, and Paseo Colorado in Pasadena, Calif. In fact, Paseo Colorado, which Trizec sold for $113 million last year, serves as a prototype.

The property, developed in conjunction with multifamily maven Post Properties, includes 565,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment on the lower levels, with about 400 apartments above, as well as significant office space.

“Paseo opened my eyes and the eyes of some people in L.A. to the potential that we have to satisfy our need for housing with a model that is very different from tract home sprawl,” says Wagman.

This is, however, a much more ambitious project that will test Wagman's considerable skills. “It's equivalent in size and scope to the Hahn Co.,” says Wagman, who is working with officials from Los Angeles to have the city annex the property north of L.A. And he's working on plans to extend the light-rail mass transit system from downtown Los Angeles to the Las Lomas site, which is bordered by five highways.

The project is an appropriate move for Wagman at this point in his career because, he says, it puts into place planning concepts people have been talking about for five or ten years — transit-oriented, mixed-use communities where smart growth and sustainability are key issues. “This is really important now. In Southern California, we're all out of room for sprawl.” — Ira Breskin “This is really important now. In Southern California, we're all out of room for sprawl.”

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