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pascal/26″/1STJC/mark2nd By JULIE SABLE Staff Reporter NORTHRIDGE Supporters of the $25 million University MarketCenter project at Devonshire Downs envision a gleaming upscale mall filled with shoppers and students from neighboring Cal State Northridge. But from where Barry Pascal sits at the Northridge Pharmacy, the university-subsidized development is a threat to the many small merchants along Reseda Boulevard and other commercial strips. Although the Northridge Pharmacy would not face direct competition from any of the stores planned so far at the MarketCenter including a gourmet market, book store and electronics retailer the university mall clearly has the potential for shifting the area’s retail district away from Reseda Boulevard. “I am not as concerned for myself as I am for the community and other businesses in Northridge,” he said. The 54-year-old Pascal, who is president-elect of the Northridge Chamber and sits on the board of 14 community groups, has helped build a coalition of groups now fighting the project. He has also taken his case against the mall to Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents Northridge and is expected to have a big say in whether the project moves forward. “When Pascal talks, people listen,” said Walter Prince, a longtime community activist who is also fighting the mall. Don Faber, president of the North Valley Homeowners Federation, said that Pascal’s work has been very effective. “He knows his way around, he’s a good solid thinker,” Faber said. But more importantly, Faber said, people know Pascal and trust him. Pascal said he has even taken the matter up with Cal State Northridge president Blenda Wilson, who shops at his store. He stresses that Wilson and others should be focused on the university, not the mall. “She’s been so busy fighting for the MarketCenter that I don’t think she has the time to deal with promotion of the university,” he said. In the face of opposition, Wilson has appointed a group of business, university and community members to evaluate the project and possible alternatives. Bernson himself has not taken a position, a spokeswoman said. Frank Wein, facilities director for the North Campus area that includes the mall site, said market studies show that the mall can co-exist with existing businesses. “We are pursuing the project not to generate competition, as we realize that there is that concern, but we’re pursuing it as a means of providing revenue to support the university’s education programs,” Wein said. While Pascal is well-respected throughout the community, Wein said he isn’t raising any issues that the university hasn’t already addressed. “We think that as valid as his concerns are, we believe that on the whole, the project still warrants pursuing and deserves the support of everyone,” Wein said. Pascal’s preference, however, would be to harness the support and ideas of area business leaders and present an alternative for the university to earn the funds that the project is expected to generate. “It’s exciting when you can get people together who do more than just shake their heads at a project,” Pascal said. “These people are not in favor of the project,” he said. “But rather than just say no, they are now going to get involved with university officials to see if we can get a dialogue going.” Pascal, owner of the store since 1973, has faced big challenges before. The 1994 Northridge earthquake shattered his store windows, caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of uninsured losses in the pharmacy and gift area and shook his normally upbeat attitude. “When I arrived at the store shortly after the earthquake, I took one look around and thought it was the end of the world, that I had lost my whole business it looked like Bosnia,” he said. He was faced with two choices: Either shut down or pick up the pieces. As he maneuvered his way amid the glass and debris that filled the store, he concentrated on finding the life-saving medication that he knew would be needed by his customers. Within hours, he had dispensed heart medication to the first customer. In the days following the quake, the pharmacy became a rallying point for the community. Pascal commissioned the painting of a mural on the pharmacy’s boarded-up windows that depicted Northridge as the emerald city from “The Wizard of Oz” with the saying, “There’s Still No Place Like Home.” Pascal and his wife were honored by local and state organizations for their service to the community, including the Northridge Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the City of Los Angeles, the California State Senate and Assembly and the California State Board of Pharmacy. Pascal said that many area merchants have not yet recovered from the 1994 earthquake. “The number of vacant stores in the area around the pharmacy prove that there is no need for more retail development,” Pascal said. Pascal’s concerns about the university’s future don’t stop at the MarketCenter. He would like to see the university and the Northridge community band together for promotional purposes. “Other than the standard signage on Reseda, there is really no clue that Northridge is a university town,” Pascal said. He thinks the student newspaper, t-shirts, mugs and other items with the university logo should be sold by Northridge businesses. Other businesses would pick up on the tie-in, he said, like naming menu items at local restaurants after the university. Northridge should be to the university like Westwood is to UCLA and South Bend is to Notre Dame, Pascal said. “Until we start to think that way, nothing will change. “I have always been a part of this community and supported everything in this town,” Pascal said. “I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

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