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Ambitious Venue Proposal Gets Little Public Support

Ambitious Venue Proposal Gets Little Public Support By JACQUELINE FOX Staff Reporter Businessman Mark Steele is shopping a plan to build an arena-style sports and entertainment center in North Hollywood, but so far, there is scant support for his vision, at least publicly. The $100-million development plan would require tremendous financial wherewithal and early commitments from potential tenants who would perform, play and exhibit at the proposed 9,000-seat arena. But mostly, Steele’s plan may be hamstrung by its location. It’s “still in the desert,” said Zane Segal, project director for Zane Segal Properties in Houston and one of an Urban Land Institute team that reviewed the proposal, referring to the proposed North Hollywood location. Segal and a team of designers and experts from around the country were asked to come up with independent findings concerning North Hollywood’s redevelopment, and their concerns about the location of such a stadium are likely to be a blow to Steele because the city has said it plans to rely heavily on the panel’s recommendations. Steele, who has formed Valley Sports Authority LLC to push the proposal forward, said he chose the North Hollywood location because of the available MTA property up for grabs there. The complex, which he is calling The Oasis, would be located next to the North Hollywood Metro Station on land owned by the MTA. According to Steele, the owners of the Long Beach Ice Dogs hockey team have already signed up for the project, and he has had positive discussions with a number of potential corporate sponsors, developers and financiers. Steele said the project would bring in much needed revenue for the cash-strapped MTA through land rents, increased ridership and parking lot revenues. “What we are trying to do is say ‘Look we have corporate sponsorships, we have the business support, and we have sponsorship interest,” said Steele. But some of the city officials and others say that, while the project deserves consideration, it would be extremely difficult to pull off. “Mark Steele’s group just does not have the financial backing or the professional team we are talking about for getting this kind of a deal up and running,” said Robert “Bud” Ovrom, chief director of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. Nor is the MTA ready to jump on the bandwagon, at least publicly. Steele said he has been offered support for the project by MTA chief Roger Snoble, but Snoble declined comment on the plan for this story. ULI Gives Recommendations A panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute last week delivered a set of recommendations for redevelopment of North Hollywood. Among the suggestions, the panel said the city should take a “Main Street” approach rather than build one large town center development, and it should promote adequate public policies and strategies to ensure the development of mixed-use housing projects, including protecting the existing arts district uses. The panel urged the city to support the existing businesses in the area, capitalize on the transit hubs and link the distinct areas of North Hollywood through attractive pedestrian walkways. The ULI team also said North Hollywood could support a world animation center. The preliminary findings of the study, which was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Community Redevelopment Agency, were delivered at a public meeting held at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood on Jan. 30. The full report is expected to be released in two months.

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