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Published Report Focuses on Improvements in NoHo

Published Report Focuses on Improvements in NoHo By BRAD SMITH Staff Reporter When Robert “Bud” Ovrom was city manager in Burbank, the competition for new business development was Glendale or Pasadena, never the city of Los Angeles. And certainly not North Hollywood, the Los Angeles suburb that borders Burbank to the west. While Ovrom’s city boomed in the 1980s and 1990s with a new shopping center and tax-generating retailers, North Hollywood languished, despite the neighborhood’s 1979 designation as a project area by Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency. “North Hollywood is almost a poster child for the inability of the CRA to accomplish something,” Ovrom said. “I was in Burbank for 18 years, and we never thought of Los Angeles as competitive we thought, ‘what’s the point of competing with the slowest gun in the West?’ ” When Ovrom was named chief executive officer of the CRA in 2003, however, his attitude toward North Hollywood changed. “I feel good about North Hollywood because it is our turn,” he said “The era of cherry picking (new development) for other areas is over.” Part of that confidence comes as the result of a survey of the area’s prospects by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute, which was presented this month to the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. The $110,000 study outlines a series of redevelopment proposals for North Hollywood that focus on the neighborhoods around the 14 acres at Lankershim and Chandler boulevards owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA land includes the 10.4-acre North Hollywood subway station, which the ULI study says should be the focus of the redevelopment area’s efforts. The ULI also recommended the CRA take advantage of the area’s designation as a center for the performing arts and the “NoHo” nickname that has come with that identity. “It’s there and let’s use it,” Ovrom urged members of the Alliance’s Livable Communities panel. “If NoHo is seen as an arts district, then take that and run with it. ” Specifically, the report recommends North Hollywood’s redevelopment set a goal of a strong, cohesive community with an identifiable “downtown” of both commercial and residential neighborhoods. Tighter focus Currently, the redevelopment project area includes stretches west from Cahuenga Boulevard past Tujunga Avenue and Lankershim Boulevard. The ULI study urges a focus on a smaller area, bounded by Vineland Avenue to the east, Tujunga to the west, Burbank Boulevard on the north and Magnolia Boulevard to the south, with a “panhandle’ extending south along Lankershim almost to Camarillo Street. Within the smaller area, the ULI planners identify five potential sub-areas: a commercial core along the northern half of Lankershim; the Arts District, along the southern portion of Lankershim and east and west on Magnolia; mixed multi-and single-family residential and civic uses neighborhoods east and west of the Lankershim-focused districts; and a mixed light industry and multi-family residential area between Vineland and the east side of Lankershim. The study also found that the Lankershim corridor could support 10-15 story commercial/mixed-use buildings, although initial tenants would have to receive subsidized rents. The researchers say the NoHo Commons development, a CRA-inspired project in the Arts District, should become home of the proposed World Animation Center, an animation museum that would provide a major tourism draw to North Hollywood. The museum would require a major endowment of $30 million, in addition to a development budget of $25 million to $30 million. Other recommendations included supporting additional live theaters, including several 99-seat non-Equity spaces and one 350- to 500-seat facility; a multiplex movie theater or theaters offering both general audience and art-house films; and a new public high school, focused on the visual and performing arts. All four of these “anchor elements” could be accommodated in or adjacent to the available MTA or CRA sites or on privately held land, but could share parking. Available spaces would include the MTA lots at the subway station, which could be used at night without conflicting with commuter parking. The researchers also recommended a major effort to provide parks and landscaping in the neighborhoods. Activists and observers say the ideas in the study are fine, but action is needed to preserve the gains made so far in North Hollywood. They include the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which moved to a CRA-supported redevelopment in North Hollywood in 1991, but which has seen improvements to the surrounding area come slowly. “They are sitting out there as an island,” said Valley businessman Bob Scott, who serves on the Economic Alliance’s Board of Directors, said referring to the Academy “They need to have some amenities.”

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