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MCA/U unveils CityWalk park

MCA Universal’s ambitious new melding of a shopping mall and an amusement park — dubbed CityWalk — is officially up and running.

With 70% of their stores and attractions in place, Universal exex Monday night unveiled the two-and-a-half block shopping and dining extravaganza, with visitors wading through a make-believe sand beach at one end of the boulevard and listening to a giant wave machine at the other.

Two years in the making, Universal CityWalk strives to make the retail experience more of an entertainment attraction, according to studio executives. Today’s visitor can shop for bathing suits, take in a magic show, eat at the beach and ride a flight simulator — all within walking distance.

“It’s built to be a reflection of a microcosm of Los Angeles,” Universal spokesman Kim Reed explained. “Everything from Venice Beach to downtown, West Los Angeles, Beverly Boulevard … a lot of the architecture will reflect different parts of the city.”

The 200,000-square-foot pedestrian walk offers more than 40 shops, restaurants and attractions, many of them familiar Southland businesses. This includes Gladstone’s 4 Fish, the Malibu restaurant that opens a second eatery here with a mini-beach complete with a big-screen TV. Or the Nature Company, which will have an enclosed rainforest inside the store.

“You can sit on the sand under a palm tree and watch ‘Monday Night Football,’ ” Reed said.

The architecture, master designed by the Jerde Partnership (headed by Jon Jerde, who designed the color scheme for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics as well as the Westside Pavilion mall), is meant to be eye-grabbing, from a giant surfboard sitting atop a building to a wizard’s cap jutting out from the “Wizardz Magic Club and Dinner Theater.” The street also will feature 21 vintage neon signs.

There are a handful of businesses that are not yet open, including Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe, which should be open in two weeks, and Sam Goody’s Musicland superstore, due to open by the end of the year.

ShowMotion by Showscan, the Walk’s biggest thrill ride, combining a flight simulator with the effects of 17 different films, will open in the fall.

There is even a country/western club, the Shooting Star Ranch, which moves into the old Tony Roma’s building on the Universal hill. Roma’s, meanwhile, will move onto the CityWalk boulevard.

“The idea is that people can go up there and dine, walk around, shop, watch street performers and take in the sights,” Reed said.

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