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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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Stalled Valley Plaza Project Taking Form

After more than five years, J.H. Snyder Co. has finally closed escrow on about nine acres of Valley Plaza, reviving hopes that the North Hollywood shopping center, which has languished for more than a decade, will finally be redeveloped. Snyder, which would have to acquire an undetermined amount of additional property before a major overhaul could begin, is also proceeding with discussions with potential tenants, and the company has engaged an architectural firm to draw up preliminary designs that could be shown to community groups and city officials as the developer’s plans progress. “We are hopeful that within the next sixty days that we can present some of our ideas to the community,” said Cliff Goldstein, senior partner with J.H. Snyder. “We believe that the immediate neighborhood should be the first group to get a peek at the project and engage with us regarding the project.” Cognizant of several false starts that preceded Snyder’s involvement in the shopping center, Goldstein demurred when asked to discuss many of the details of the acquisition or his plans for the center. But he did note that the preliminary plans include securing a movie theater to locate on the site and moving the nearby Robinsons-May store to the center, located at Laurel Canyon and Victory boulevards. “We are talking to a number of tenants including a major cinema,” Goldstein said. “We are discussing with Robinsons-May about locating a new state-of-the-art Macy’s department store. We are talking with a number of other potential tenants.” Robinsons-May was recently acquired by Federated Department Stores which plans to re-brand the department store Macy’s. A western regional headquarters operation which had also been housed at the current North Hollywood location at Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Erwin Street will be shuttered, but Federated, so far at least, has not included the retail store among the Robinsons-May units it plans to close. If the Robinsons-May were to relocate to Valley Plaza, sources said that J.H. Snyder would acquire the retailer’s current site and redevelop it for residential use. Goldstein would not comment on those reports or on reports that Costco is also among the retailers the company is meeting with. Indeed, he cautioned that the project is still far from certain. “Until I know what the mayor’s office wants, what the council wants, what the community wants, until I know what everyone wants, to announce that I have a project is premature,” Goldstein said. “The fact of the matter is people got excited over two years ago and nothing happened. When we think we have enough of the pieces of the puzzle put together, we certainly will come out in a public way.” While the most recent step is a small one, it is the first palpable sign in many years that redevelopment of the shopping center may indeed proceed. “We’re closer to making that soup than we ever had been,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Wendy Greuel whose district includes the Valley Plaza property. “When I was elected, this project had been lingering for years. It’s been one of my top priorities.” The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles targeted the center early in the 1990s after a developer failed to assemble the properties from the more than 30 different owners in the center. Built in the 1940s, Valley Plaza was one of the country’s first shopping centers. Back then, the centers were made up of multiple owners with complex agreements to share parking and other rights. Over the years, the center fell into disrepair and the blight was exacerbated when the Northridge Earthquake struck. In 1997 the center was the scene of the ignominious North Hollywood bank robbery when two men, armed with automatic weapons held police at bay for hours before being killed. The CRA eventually struck a deal with J.H. Snyder in 1999, but many delays followed, not the least of which was a decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District to locate a new school in the center of the 40-acre property. The biggest holdup now appears to be the financing of the development. The CRA uses tax increment funding for projects such as this one, projecting the increased tax revenues that are likely to come from redevelopment. Without a track record for the center, and without any large tenants firmly locked in, it is difficult to project the tax revenues that will be generated. “We want to identify what the gap is and find the funding,” said Greuel. Snyder has engaged Elkus Manfredi Architects, the same group that designed The Grove at Farmer’s Market, to help with some initial design ideas. While the developer envisions the center as a town center with pedestrian walkways and meeting areas, Goldstein said it will not look like The Grove. “We chose them because of their reputation first of all, and we’ve seen them in action on another project and were impressed by their work,” Goldstein said. “We’re not looking to duplicate that (The Grove) and we didn’t choose them because of The Grove. Our thoughts are to design a unique, one-of-a-kind project.”

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