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Friday, Jul 1, 2022

Security Looms Large for CSUN’s Jewish Center

DS Honda Construction has landed a contract for a substantial remodel – and security upgrade – of the CSUN Hillel Jewish Student Center in Northridge. David Honda, founder of DS Honda Construction and a member of the California State University – Northridge’s board of directors, will oversee the project. The center, located at 17729 Plummer St., spans a mere 5,005 square feet on less than an acre of property. In a previous life, the structure served as a fraternity house, and hasn’t seen a remodel since the Hillel Center moved in circa 1986 — so it’s been through its share of wear and tear. “It looks like it’s been stuck in the 1980s,” Hillel 818 Board of Directors Chair Kathi Mangel said. “Technologically, it was not up-to-date. Little by little, we started renovating but this will complete it for us. We put in an entire kosher kitchen with the help of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.” Honda predicts that his team will consist of about 32 people – four people from eight trades. When done, the venue will include a conference room, prayer space, staff space, a new façade on the building and a new security system. Matt Baram, who serves the Valley region as executive director of Hillel 818, said the office in Northridge actually serves three campuses – CSUN, Pierce College and Los Angeles Valley College – and potentially thousands of students. “Between the three colleges, we serve 6,500 Jewish students,” Baram said. “We’re not reaching all these students yet, but we believe this new building will help us reach a lot more of them.” Baram, who began serving the Valley region July 1, added that Jewish students attending Moorpark College and College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita will also be interested in this center. The scope of work that needs to be done is formidable, and in a sign of the times, security is a priority for the re-design. The lobby will have what Honda calls a “mantrap vestibule,” with bulletproof glass installed surrounding the lobby and front of the building. Plans are in the works to add concrete columns, fencing and an automatic sliding driveway gate with anti-terrorism popup bollards for safety. “We raised $2.4 million – that will cover the cost of the building and it should give us a pool of money to maintain the facility,” Mangel said. Joseph Industries founder Joe Perdott, creator of the “Chia Pet,” has been identified as a lead donor. To help defray the cost of the security implementation, Hillel will utilize a $50,000 grant the organization received from the Department of Homeland Security.  This will go toward an electric gate, camera system, new lighting, panic button and video system. The Jewish student community is on constant alert and their board of directors and donors are truly aware of this, Honda said. “CSUN Police patrolled this property each day before we started the work,” Honda said. Baram wants to see a center “much safer and much more attractive to our students. … Safety is a huge thing also with the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country.” Connected contractor While Honda, a 2009 Fernando Award recipient, has long been active at CSUN, he came highly recommended from the top. “We found him through Scott Silverstein, chair of (Hillel’s) Building Committee,” Mangel told the Business Journal. Silverstein, a philanthropist who Honda credited as the person who “single-handedly” spearheaded the creation of El Camino Real Charter School, is the owner of Sherman Oaks-based real estate brokerage firm Lee and Associates. The project, per Honda, has been separated into two phases. Phase I will consist of the interior remodel, while phase II will be the addition of 1,190 square feet. The majority of the addition is for the lobby/reception area. Founded by Benjamin Frankel in 1923 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the nonprofit Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is the world’s largest Jewish campus organization. Its mission is to reinforce the Jewish experience at college. “The renovation was so necessary,” Baram said. “Our building hasn’t really been updated since 1986. The floors were uneven. It just didn’t look like a modern building.” Currently, Hillel 818 is renting a house in Northridge as a temporary space during the renovation.

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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