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NOHO/Woodard/27″/mark2nd By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter A plan by redevelopment officials to create an urban village in North Hollywood featuring artist’s lofts, restaurants and stores has sparked the interest of a dozen developers, including a large Atlanta-based real estate investment trust. Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency officials are preparing to request bids from developers to turn 11 acres of mostly rundown industrial property west of Lankershim Boulevard into what the CRA hopes will become an enclave for artists, actors, animators and other creative types. It’s up to prospective developers to come up with specific plans for the site, but CRA officials will encourage bidders to build condominium-style studios to entice artists to live in the area. In addition, the agency will ask developers to restore a turn-of-the-century train station across the street from the North Hollywood Metro Rail Red Line Station. “These could be the starter homes of the ’90s,” said Walter Beaumont, assistant project manager for the North Hollywood redevelopment project. “People could get in for a reasonable amount, and have a studio in an urban setting.” One heavyweight developer interested in the project is Atlanta-based Post Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust with $2 billion in assets that specializes in developing apartment and condominium housing in distressed areas. Cliff Ratkovich, the company’s vice president of development, declined to say whether his company would bid on the project, expressing concern about tipping off competitors. But Beaumont said the company has approached the city agency about developing 1,000 housing units on the property and Ratkovich and other Post representatives have visited the site. Ron Kinder, a Los Angeles-based Realtor and developer, confirmed that Post asked him to scout out properties for possible development, a search that led him to the North Hollywood site. The scheduled completion of the Metro Rail station for spring 2000, coupled with the plans for sound stages and office buildings as part of another redevelopment project on an adjacent 42 acres, make it a prime location, Kinder said. “There’s a great stimulus for growth,” he said. “You have so many studios and offices within five minutes of North Hollywood. There’s a lack of quality housing and the potential for an urban village.” Post has developed similar projects in blighted areas, including one in Dallas, and is more than capable of pulling it off, Kinder added. “They went into areas far worse than North Hollywood and created urban retail and housing projects.” While Beaumont and other CRA officials see the project as a way to revitalize the fading retail strip along Lankershim and bring higher-income residents to the mostly low-income area, some critics are dubious about the artist-loft concept, considering it has been something of a flop elsewhere in L.A. Mildred Weller, a longtime CRA critic, said that while the concept is romantic, she doubted whether lofts would sell or that a developer could provide sufficient space in a condo to suit artists looking for airy surroundings or large spaces to do their work. “It’s a dumb idea,” she said. Weller also questioned whether North Hollywood can accommodate the 11-acre project in addition to the 42-acre redevelopment effort proposed for the east side of Lankershim. The two projects, which are being reviewed by the CRA, would add between 1.8 million and 4.3 million square feet of sound stages, offices and other uses to the area. “This will be a nightmare of traffic,” Weller said. “We’ve got too much traffic for what density we have now.” Beaumont maintains that North Hollywood could more than handle the density of all the proposed development. The 11-acre project, in particular, would complement the larger project by providing housing for people who would work in the new sound stages and offices. The 11-acre project would be built within a three-block area west of Lankershim, from Weddington to Cumpston streets. Most of the property is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is using the land as a staging area for subway construction. The MTA will make the land available for development provided it is used to enhance transit ridership at the station, including such conveniences as coffee shops, stores or restaurants for riders. The CRA also wants to see the old train station in the MTA’s staging area preserved and restored, possibly turned into a restaurant with a turn-of-the century theme. Beaumont, who intends to solicit bids from developers in February, said living in North Hollywood would make sense for young families. “You have a major mass-transit portal within walking distance, as well as all the amenities needed for a small family,” he said. Michael Dieden, a principal with Creative Housing Associates, an L.A.-based developer that specializes in urban infill projects, confirmed that his company is also interested in developing the 11-acre parcel. He disagrees with Weller that artist’s lofts would not be marketable. Such lofts in the area bounded by First, Sixth and Alameda streets and the Los Angeles River, for example, have rebounded from earlier declines and are now home to some 3,000 artists. A new coffee shop was recently built in the area, and rents are on the rise, he said. “We’re quite bullish on lofts.” North Hollywood has significant potential because people can simply hop on the Red Line if they want to go to Hollywood or downtown, he added. “The demographic make-up of North Hollywood is similar to Venice. People can work, live and display (their art) in the same space,” said Dieden Academy Media Centre LLC, a Beverly Hills-based partnership competing to develop the 42-acre site, plans to build 178 market-rate apartment units as part of a $250 million to $300 million, 1.7 million-square-foot development featuring eight sound stages, a restaurant and food court complex, an eight-story office tower, a 1,825-seat performing arts center and a culinary school with banquet facilities. Jarco/SLG & G; LLC is proposing to build 400 condominiums as part of a 4.3 million-square-foot, $1 billion project featuring 10 sound stages, four 20-story office towers, a 300-room hotel, 20 restaurants and a 20-screen multiplex. Beaumont said a 1997 market study by Encino-based Natelson Co. Inc. pegged the demand for housing in North Hollywood at 1,859 units by 2010, and that was under a scenario that called for “constrained” growth. J. Allen Radford, a principal with Jarco, agreed with Beaumont that the area can support more homes. “There’s a tremendous need for housing. Our units would certainly not saturate the market now or any time in the future,” he said

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