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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Merchants Finding Life in Old Town Newhall

With the City of Santa Clarita’s new library finally open, merchants are moving in to Old Town Newhall with the hope that more foot-traffic will spur redevelopment that was cut short when state money stopped flowing. Kelly Phillipson relocated her clothing and home décor boutique Luscious Soul from Thousand Oaks to the business district in September. She got more space for less rent and found herself surrounded by likeminded business owners who now are helping each other to revive this corner of Santa Clarita. In the past six months, six businesses including clothing boutiques, a café and a spa have opened in the Old Town Newhall district, said Tim Crissman, president of the Old Town Newhall Association. A financial services firm is slated to open by the end of the year. The city has ambitions to replicate in Old Town Newhall the kind of redevelopment that has reshaped other cities, such as Pasadena. That effort was easier when there were redevelopment dollars to invest, such as the $1 million per block for street-scaping completed between 2009 and 2011. The funds were used to extend sidewalks, add new lights and install decorative brickwork at intersections. The work was stopped short when Gov. Jerry Brown stepped in to abolish municipal redevelopment agencies to balance the state budget last year. The California Supreme Court later upheld the move. With the loss of that money, the city feels like its hands are tied when it comes to continuing what has been started, said Marketing and Economic Development Manager Jason Crawford. “We are not sure what the playing field is to even move forward,” Crawford said. The city is in the early stages of proposing a property-based improvement district that would collect money to market and promote the area through an assessment. “We can create a funding mechanism to continue the progress that has been started,” Crissman said. The lack of redevelopment funding has not dampened enthusiasm for the potential of Old Town Newhall. Luscious Soul had been in a plaza in Thousand Oaks for 18 months before Phillipson decided to move to Santa Clarita. She says she has met more merchants in her first few weeks in Santa Clarita than she ever did in Thousand Oaks. “I have met half the street in less than two weeks,” Phillipson said of Old Town Newhall. “There is a huge difference in the encouragement.” Crissman, a commercial real estate broker, said restaurants, nightclub operators and even an ice cream shop are in active discussions to take space. Tucked in a corner of the city, away from the freeways and the commercial corridors lined with chain stores and restaurants, merchants in Old Town hope to appeal to the public through special events and one-of-kind offers not found elsewhere in the city. The draw of Old Town Newhall is the marked absence of the chain stores and the collection of eclectic shops and restaurants, said Steve Lemley, a co-owner with Nate Hasper of Pulchella Winery, a wine tasting room. “You get all those into one area and it offers a unique experience,” he said. Madison Schwartz opened her Fresh Lifestyle boutique in April 2011. The 25-year-old Santa Clarita native got an early start in retail managing her mother’s clothing store. Like Phillipson, Schwartz found a welcoming environment from the other merchants. “They care about everybody’s success,” Schwartz said. One big boost has been Senses, a city-sponsored event that shuts down Main Street to car traffic and brings in live music and food trucks every third Thursday of the month. “I make my rent in three hours, if you can imagine that,” Schwartz said. To help bring in visitors, the district also hosts a farmer’s market, an annual car show, the Music in Hart Park Series, and Western-themed events in conjunction with the annual Cowboy Days Festival. The Walk of Western Stars can be found on the sidewalks on several streets.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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