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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023


WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter Some Granada Hills residents aren’t afraid to admit that their retail-oriented business community lacks a certain pizzazz. “We have an awful lot of nail shops and hair salons,” said Caroline East, who retired recently after owning a Granada Hills travel agency for 18 years. “We need to get some excitement around here.” What East and others want are coffee houses, sidewalk cafes, upscale restaurants and unusual boutiques as opposed to the auto parts stores, lock and key shops, dry cleaners and real estate offices that now line the community’s main drag along Chatsworth Street. Fortunately, with a major shopping center opening up on Chatsworth at Zelzah Avenue and plans by the business community to create a Business Improvement District (BID), things are beginning to look up. Business leaders see the potential for the community to turn back the clock to better times in the 1960s, when people used to come to Granada Hills to stroll and shop. The Granada Hills stretch of Chatsworth Street once was referred to as “Granada Village,” but business dried up with the development of major shopping centers in the Valley in the ’70s. “There was more of a downtown feeling a few decades back and the goal is to bring some of that back,” said Richard Colon, president of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce. The initial spark for what business leaders hope will lead to a revitalization of the area came with the recent development of the Granada Hills Town Center, a shopping center featuring a Ralph’s supermarket and other large retailers, like Orchard Supply Hardware. Though it is located at the periphery of the main drag, the center’s presence is creating a ripple effect that will ultimately help boost that area’s fortunes, Colon said. As the center attracts shoppers, the chamber hopes the local merchants will enjoy a boost, helping defray their costs of participating in the BID now being formed. Granada Hills is one of a number of Valley communities that is undertaking a BID, in which business property owners agree to pay into a fund that is used to pay for street improvements and marketing campaigns. The chamber-led project is on the verge of getting the approval of 51 percent of property owners along the four-block area of Chatsworth Street between Encino and Zelzah avenues, the corner where the new shopping center is located. The center’s owner, Washington, D.C.-based Combined Properties Inc., is a participant in the NID project, meaning that the pool of BID money will be larger than it might have been only a year ago. Most of the money from the BID will be used to buy more attractive bus benches, trash receptacles, lighting and other things that will make the Chatsworth Street area “pedestrian friendly,” Colon said. With a spruced-up streetscape, business community leaders will have a better chance of attracting companies like Starbucks Coffee, upscale restaurant operators and others to set up shop, said Hank Miller, vice president of the Bank of Granada Hills. After that area is renovated, business leaders believe that locals as well as folks from surrounding areas will begin to stroll and browse again along Chatsworth Street. “Granada Hills basically closes up at a certain hour and that’s it,” said Miller. “There is no reason to go there in the evening, there’s nothing there, and we need to change that.” If the current BID proves successful, the chamber may launch a similar project for the intersection of Chatsworth Street and Balboa Boulevard. That area also is home to numerous small businesses, such as ethnic eateries and jewelry stores, as well as offices. “It’s a busy, high-visibility area for Granada Hills and could use some visual improvement,” Colon said. The only other large-scale business-related project underway in the community is at the Granada Hills Community Hospital, which is spending $16.5 million to build a new wing and replace facilities damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. With 430 employees, the hospital is Granada Hills’ largest employer, and the new facilities may mean more jobs, though it is unclear how many, said Colon, who is the hospital’s director of food services. “The improved hospital could mainly benefit the community by making people be more aware of Granada Hills,” Colon said. “People will say, ‘Oh yeah, Granada Hills they have a good, modern hospital that’s privately run.’ “

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