By SHELLY GARCIA Staff Reporter A local San Fernando Valley property owner has proposed the development of a big-box shopping center on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. The center would be located at the site of the former Coast Savings bank between Van Nuys and Sepulveda boulevards. It would be the only big-box development in Sherman Oaks, whose retail community generally consists largely of small, neighborhood shops. H & M; Konjoyan, a family-owned owned business which owns several properties in the Valley, closed escrow on the Coast property several weeks ago, paying around $2 million, the original asking price for the coveted corner lot, said Carrie Konjoyan, co-owner of the company and a past president of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce. The family owns an adjacent property, the Lindora Medical building, and plans to tear down those two facilities for a two-story center with a total of about 100,000 square feet of selling space and parking facilities both above and under ground. “We’re hoping to break ground in the next year or so,” said Konjoyan. Before that happens, H & M; Konjoyan will have to overcome several hurdles, including obtaining a zoning variance to build a taller structure than the specific plan currently allows and finding a way to ease the potential traffic congestion, which is the greatest concern of community groups. But if the company is able to navigate its project through the city and neighborhood groups, it stands to profit mightily, developers said. “It’s a home run,” said Cliff Goldstein, a partner with J.H. Snyder Co., which is currently developing a big-box center in Woodland Hills. “All the big boxes want to be on Ventura Boulevard, and there are so few spaces to get.” With a few exceptions, there has not been sufficient space along the boulevard to develop centers that can accommodate retailers requiring 20,000 square feet of space or more. The site already has drawn interest from a number of national chain stores, attracted by the demographics of Sherman Oaks and its central location in the East San Fernando Valley. “It meets almost every requirement for population and income,” said Art Ross, whose Ventura-based brokerage, A.J. Ross Commercial, represents Konjoyan. “You have a dense area. You have a higher than average income.” The center also is located between a Pavilions market and a newly-remodeled Sav-On Drugs store, making it even more attractive, he added. Besides local residents, big-box retailers can also draw on the significant daytime traffic generated by surrounding businesses, particularly if a proposal to redevelop the nearby Sherman Oaks Galleria and with it, an additional 45,000 square feet of office space goes through, the developers said. One potential tenant for the Galleria’s office space is Warner Bros., which is in discussions to locate its animation facilities in the center’s office complex. Such a move would add an estimated 150,000 square feet or more of office occupancy, according to brokers. Ross said the interest in the big-box center has come from retailers of both soft goods and hard goods with space needs ranging from 17,000-50,000 square feet. The company expects to lease to no more than three stores. The Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, which has a strong presence in the community and has waged successful opposition to many development proposals, has given a tentative nod to the project. “We support the concept as long as traffic problems are solved,” said Richard Close, the association’s president. “But until we get the details, we can’t really evaluate the pluses and minuses.” In addition to the dense concentration of shops and restaurants along Ventura Boulevard, a free-standing Borders Books & Music unit is under development less than a half mile east of the proposed center site. “The combination of Borders and this use means traffic is going to be a major concern,” Close said. “I’m concerned about traffic too,” added Konjoyan. “We intend to address it to the best of our ability.” The zoning variance required may pose additional problems. “We don’t have a position on the project other than we have some concerns about the exception to the specific plan,” said Sharon Mayer, field deputy to City Councilman Michael Feuer. She said that while community support is important in deciding requests for variances, city officials also consider the intent of the specific plan. Although it does not directly prohibit larger stores, it does include height restrictions in order to encourage pedestrian traffic and to guard against congestion from automobile traffic. H & M; Konjoyan, which has hired the architectural firm John Ash Group to draft a preliminary design for the center, has begun meeting with local community groups and civic leaders.