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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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$1 Billion for District NoHo

They named it District NoHo, but they’re hoping it becomes the future heart of North Hollywood. On Dec. 5, developer Trammell Crow Co. and partner MetLife — in a private/public partnership with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority — officially submitted applications for a proposed $1 billion plan to revamp, surround, in-fill and complement the North Hollywood Metro station with housing, retail, restaurants and office space. The ambitous infill project would begin next year with the replacement of the existing bandshell portal with two new portals while preserving the existing subway murals. The eventual plan is to insert an urban community onto a 15.6-acre property. About 20 percent of the apartments would be designated affordable. Eight buildings will be established in six phases. Six buildings will house the multifamily component, with a pair of those buildings housing the lower-income homes. Three acres will be devoted to open and green space, plus pedestrian paths and bike lanes that criss-cross through the property to connect vistiors and residents with the various components, including transit. A 10-story, 400,000-square-foot, Gensler-designed office tower on the southwest corner of Lankershim and Chandler boulevards will house 1,000 employees daily within its walls, according to Abbey Ehman of Trammell Crow and Brad Cox of High Street Residential, Trammell Crow’s housing development division, who walked the Business Journal around the future District NoHo site. Ehman and Cox said that among District NoHo’s community amenities will be an urban format grocery and fitness center. Cox said the Gensler component will be “very urban in its feel – all of the streets laminated with retail shops.” The commercial developers, who have been working in tandem with Wells Lawson, a senior director in the MTA’s joint development group, said they feel that they are heading into the city’s application process with strong support from Councilmember Paul Kerkorian and North Hollywood residents. Arts District advantages The hope among Trammell’s Ehman and High Street’s Cox is that most of the people occupying the apartments will work in entertainment or tech. If they are not working at the local NoHo annexes of various media companies, they will be commuting by Metro train to nearby media and tech hubs in Burbank, Studio City, Hollywood and downtown L.A. What’s attractive to the Trammell Crow executives is that the complex will be situated within a culturally rich part of the Valley which has 20 live theaters, visual arts facilities and colorful street murals, plus restaurant life. Magnolia Boulevard between Vineland Avenue and Lankershim Boulevard is lined with a plethora of hip eats, including Republic of Pie, Kahuna Tiki, Urban Kebab and Eat. “We’re within the (NoHo Arts) District,” Ehman said. Near the intersection of Magnolia and Lankershim, such entertainment entities as production company ITV America, co-working company WeWork, and animation houses Bento Box and Titmouse have signed leases to house hundreds of creative workers. “That’s why we’re making such a big bet on NoHo,” said Ehman Yet with the unrelated live/work/play project NoHo West, due to begin rolling out in a few months only minutes away by car, Trammell Crow and company seem somewhat cognizant that over-development could kill the golden goose, as the very quirkiness and charm that is attracting people to North Hollywood may become priced out and flattened by gentrification. According to Zillow, the average monthly apartment rent in North Hollywood was $2,371 in September and rising. Because of this perhaps, Ehman stressed that the retailers and businesses setting up shop at District NoHo will not just be comprised of Caruso-like curated top-tier brands but also local businesses. In fact, Ehman told the Business Journal that Trammell Crow purposely hired three different architecture studios — Gensler, HKS and KFA — so that the project didn’t look like “it was drawn by the same hand.” She said the team is striving for this new self-contained mini-community to appear as if it evolved “organically.” Gensler will design the office structure and attendant retail while HKS and KFA will each design market rate and affordable housing structures. The apartments will be home to about 3,000 people, Cox estimated. MTA will sign a ground lease with Trammell Crow, but as part of this public-private partnership with Metro, Cox said, the developers will invest about $100 million in transit improvements. This includes an extension of existing streets into the complex and parking for more than 4,000 cars, including 900 spaces for Metro line users. Maintenance and security will be privatized and the responsibility of owner Trammell Crow. Upon city of L.A. approval, first phase construction could begin as early as late 2021. According to the plan, Trammell Crow will first have to revamp the Metro station portal area and establish one of the affordable housing buildings before building and rolling out the commercial components. The entire enterprise would wrap up by 2029 at the earliest. “We’ve been in NoHo a lot,” said Ehman, referring to more than three years that she and Cox’s companies have been planning District NoHo. For Dallas-based Trammell Crow, comparable projects include the firm’s work on Park Place in Dallas at Clyde Warren Park, also joint-ventured with Met Life. In Austin, Trammell Crow projects in motion include Greenwater, Indeed Tower and a new Google building. On a side note, the NoHo project coincides with the 20th anniversary of the NoHo Metro station. “It’s going to improve the ridership experience,” Ehman said. “It will be more consolidated and there will be more efficiency.” Central ‘vibe’ The current Metro station area in NoHo is peppered with vintage buildings, including Federal Bar and Groundwork Coffee, which is housed in the historic former Southern Pacific/Pacific Electric train depot. Those buildings will remain intact, Cox said, and he and Ehman stressed that no buildings, businesses or residences will be disrupted or displaced by District NoHo. The complex’s snaking blueprint also works in and around a 127-unit residential structure already under construction by Richman Group behind the Groundwork depot building. Scott Baker, president of landscape architecture firm Relm in downtown L.A., will import 500 drought-tolerant trees. The company will handle all in-between spaces, including public sidewalks, private streets, pedestrian walkways and green spaces. “With transit – it’s an inherently public thing, more organized around public space first and foremost and the buildings playing a supporting cast,” Baker said. He considers this project a pioneering piece of urbanism in the Valley. “You can live a very urbane existence at District NoHo and in 25 minutes be in downtown L.A.,” he said. While Relm has been busy with the Ivy Station in Culver City, the Expo Crenshaw project, and another at Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, “I don’t think there’s much that can hold a candle to a project of this scale,” Baker said regarding District NoHo. HKS, the master architect of the entire project, will design three market-rate high-rise residential towers, said the firm’s project leader Greg Verabian. For Verabian, the project “has to be an authentic extension of a neighborhood. It is going to be noticeably new. It’s not saying that no one is going to commute anymore. By extending some of the streets and putting using on primariy streets, we’re extending the vibe.” The developers feel they are creating a central destination for the city of North Hollywood that is currently missing. Verabian said that up until now, the subway portal has been an unintended gathering place that MTA was discouraging, and that the mindset for that had to be turned around. “It’s going to be a home base for people to say, ‘Hey, meet me at District NoHo,” he said. For Verabian, who grew up in the area, it’s hard to believe he’s even working on a project that would invest $1 billion into North Hollywood, of all places. “I grew up not too far in Studio City in the flats so I did spend quite a bit of time in the area,” he said. “For me, it’s kind of an interesting thing have a destination, a memorable place, for the East Valley.”

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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