Community Response Prompts Center’s Design Change REAL ESTATE By Shelly Garcia “When you get a Starbucks you know you’ve arrived.” That’s what the head of one of the North Hills neighborhood groups told me about a new development that is getting underway at Sepulveda Boulevard and Nordhoff Street. And it pretty much sums up the future direction of development in urban, ethnic areas. Vive le difference? Forget it. Give us suburbia. When Primestor Development Inc. began planning Paseo Sepulveda, an $18-million retail development on six acres of land in North Hills, the company’s idea was to employ a design modeled on the style of pre-eminent architect Ricardo Legoretta. The Mexico City born Legoretta’s work combines indigenous elements with a contemporary, international flair. And the Primestor principals, one born in Mexico City, the other in Argentina, thought that the Latin flavor of the design would be more appealing than the traditional interpretation of architecture south of the border found at many Southern California shopping complexes. But in spite of the population of the area, 62 percent Hispanic in a 3-mile radius and 59 percent Hispanic in a 5-mile radius, the idea didn’t fly with the community. “We were trying to show that in Mexico, Mexican architecture can be different. It doesn’t have to be the traditional Mission style,” said Arturo Sneider, one of the company’s two partners. “The community would have none of that and they made themselves very vocal about it.” Primestor changed its design ideas based on the community’s input to a more traditional Mediterranean style design and got overwhelming approval from the community. “This is just a wonderful project,” said Tony Swan, president of the North Hills Community Coordinating Council. Swan pointed out that there were some elements of the original design that the community found problematic, namely some tall columns residents feared could invite crime. But the community’s objections also reflect an overriding sentiment in Hispanic communities Hispanics in America want to be treated as Americans. Spanish language films have largely been unsuccessful in these communities although subtitled films have been, so long as they are the same first-run films showing in other theaters. Signs in Spanish are sometimes OK in retail stores, provided the assortment is the same as can be found in other locations. “The whole notion that we have to specialize the center for the community is not well-received in our opinion,” said Sneider. Their innovative design idea aside, Primestor is representative of the kind of development company that is most attractive to the Hispanic community. The L.A.-based company, which has about 1 million square feet of projects in the pipeline currently, mostly in Southeast L.A., specializes in urban infill development, usually in areas heavily populated by Hispanics and other ethnic groups, but it operates just like national developers, with relationships with the kinds of regional and national retailers found on Main Street USA. Paseo Sepulveda, which breaks ground in coming weeks and should be completed early next year, will house a Walgreens, Coldstone Creamery, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Subway, Panda Express and A.J. Wright, a new division of The TJX Companies Inc., which operates T.J. Maxx stores, Marshalls and others. For the folks in North Hills, a shopping center with those kinds of stores is a symbol that what they’ve worked so hard to accomplish for the last many years has come to pass. The community’s demographics are strong dense population and a median household income of about $52,000. But long plagued by crime, retailers and developers had stayed away from the area and there are virtually no community shopping centers in the neighborhood. Residents have been working with city officials from the Community Law Enforcement & Recovery Program (C.L.E.A.R.), a multi-agency effort that targets gangs specific to a community, and they say they’ve seen marked improvement, particularly over the past two years. “It proves that with the wise investment in law enforcement to reduce street crime then the marketplace itself will come along and free enterprise will operate,” said Swan. “They made it safe and everybody else wanted to come back.” Once the developers changed the design, the community got behind the project unanimously, Swan said. “We were praying for this type of redevelopment, and we were very happy it came along. It was our pleasure to support it.” Apartment Sale A 170-unit apartment complex in Sherman Oaks, Summer View Apartments, has sold for $20.2 million. John Walsh, a broker with Marcus & Millichap, represented the sellers, a private investment group, and the buyer Resource Capital Partners. Tech Transaction InQ Inc., a Van Nuys-based Internet company, has leased 19,000 square feet of office space in Agoura Hills Business Center for relocation. The five-year deal is valued at $2.3 million. Marc Spellman, a broker with Lee & Associates, represented the tenant. The landlord, Lowe Enterprises, was represented by Tom Dwyer of CB Richard Ellis. Senior Reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123.