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Paperback trees were recently relocated to Virginia Avenue Park by City Hall and Nordstrom. The department store at Santa Monica Place chose to remove the trees because of remodel. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — They’re green, lush and always in style, but a row of more than a dozen trees are no longer part of the Santa Monica Place landscape.

Nordstrom, which is moving into and renovating the old space long occupied by Robinsons-May, recently relocated six paperbark and two coral trees from the perimeter of the department store, contacting City Hall for assistance but paying for the costs itself.

For the Seattle-based company, the decision wasn’t made in the name of fashion, but was rather about being a good neighbor.

“Anytime we build a new store, it’s a long-term investment for us and we want to make every effort to be a good community partner,” said Julie Kuns, Nordstrom vice president and regional manager for Los Angeles and Orange County.

Walt Warriner, the community forester, said he received a call from Nordstrom officials in August concerning the trees, which would not be allowed to remain under the designs for the department store.

“But they were very clear about doing the environmentally right thing and they wanted to know what we could do to help them out,” Warriner said.

The paperbark trees, which stand about 25-30 feet tall, moved last week to Virginia Avenue Park while the coral trees were replanted along the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Olympic Boulevard.

The rootball of the trees were excavated overnight, wrapped in burlap and immediately replanted. They sit at both locations protected by orange fences, which will remain until next spring when the root is expected to grow into the ground.

Warriner said that tree relocation has a success rate in the high 90 percentage range.

He estimates that the company spent about $20,000 to relocate the trees. City Hall will assume maintenance responsibilities for the trees, which were previously located on private property, and pay for the establishment cost involved with watering and caring for the trees until there is new root growth. The trees will most likely be pruned on a 3-5 year cycle, Warriner said.

It’s in the first several months after the tree is moved where there’s risk involved.

“You can do everything right when transplanting the trees and you might get bad weather that isn’t conducive to relocating the trees or something else might happen,” Warriner said. “You have to monitor and maintain until they’re established and you can see good shoot growth.”

He pointed to the Pacific Street Dog Park in Ocean Park where several ficus trees from Fourth Street were replanted this summer.

The trees sat in the ground for about three weeks until they suddenly “erupted” in leaves, he said.

“That is a sign of the tree coming out of shock of being transplanted and starting to get established,” he said.

The relocation of the ficus trees were met with opposition from the community, particularly the Santa Monica Treesavers. Some questioned whether the move could be done successfully without harming the trees.

Nordstrom is one of two anchor tenants for the new Santa Monica Place, which is scheduled to open on Aug. 6, 2010. Bloomingdale’s, which will flank the mall on the southeast corner of the mall, will open in early August while Nordstrom will go live on Aug. 27.

The trees sat in raised planters around the department store.

“We relocated the trees based on a recommendation from the city’s urban forester, but ultimately, it was the right thing to do,” Kuns said.

melodyh@smdp.com