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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

City OKs Remake of Former Sunkist HQ

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER Staff Reporter Developer IMT Capital’s mixed-use re-imagining of the former Sunkist Growers headquarters in Sherman Oaks has secured approval from L.A. City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Located at Hazeltine and Riverside Drive, the Johnson Fain-designed development envisions residential units, restaurants and retail posited around an office building that once served as home to Sunkist. Sherman Oaks-based IMT purchased the former site in 2013. In 2014, the citrus cooperative relocated to the Santa Clarita Valley at 27770 Entertainment Drive in Valencia. In Sherman Oaks, the aging 127,000-square-foot building will be renovated and used for office space but will be flanked by two new office buildings. For several years, there has been major pushback by residents who live on the periphery of the project, citing factors such as traffic congestion, construction inconvenience and noise as too disruptive. At public neighborhood meetings, locals were originally quite vocal in their distaste for the project, which, after some haggling back and forth between developer and community, now stands to deliver 249 housing units; 27,500 square feet of retail, shops and restaurants; and 1,141 parking spaces. In fact, the developer had to downsize the residential component from its original 298 residential units. Last August, IMT’s David Tedesco explained to the Business Journal some of the nuances of the compromise made on the project. “The reduction of the number of housing units would allow for a concomitant reduction in the amount of on-site parking. The updated project calls for 1,141 underground parking spaces, down from 1,345 in the original proposal. The parking reduction allowed IMT to shrink the size of a standalone garage planned along Hazeltine Avenue, creating space for a linear park.” Tedesco said in 2019: “The reduction in units was a concession that the community insisted on, the parking reduction was a reflection of the reduced number of units and the reduced retail square footage from the original project that was submitted.” What helped sweeten the deal for Sherman Oaks residents was IMT’s plan to incorporate a 28,000-square-foot park connecting to the Los Angeles River, as well as a buffer zone made of shrubs to reduce noise and visual pollution for a cul-de-sac of houses along the project’s northern border. “The IMT Sunkist project is an example of the positive results that can be accomplished when a developer, their architects and the community work together,” Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council PLUM Committee Chair Jeff Kalban told the Business Journal. “This project will have a true community benefit, a beautiful park with areas to sit, stroll and have a bit to eat that will run from the L.A. River along Hazeltine Avenue to Riverside Drive and maintained in perpetuity by the developer.” The IMT plan must next obtain approval from Los Angeles City Council. Said Kalban: “The response from the community now is very positive. Instead of questioning the merits of the development, I am now asked, ‘When will it be built?’”

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