Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Newhall Revitalization Cost Data Sought

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A San Francisco-based urban design firm that devised a plan for the revitalization of downtown Newhall was given the go-ahead Tuesday by city officials to take the next step--figuring out how the project can be financed.

The city of Santa Clarita, which paid Freedman, Tung & Bottomley $100,000 to create the revitalization plan, will pay the firm an additional $20,000 to come up with the financial strategy.

The cost to overhaul Newhall has been estimated at between $5 million and $10 million, depending on how much of the plan is implemented.

The decision to move on to the financial aspects of the project followed a highly charged presentation of the plan Tuesday night before the City Council and Planning Commission by Michael Freedman, one of the principals in the firm. He showed slides of what a revamped Newhall could be: a bustling retail and restaurant district complete with sidewalk cafes, picturesque town square and droves of pedestrians.

The redesign was based on comments and suggestions from residents during a series of public workshops organized by the firm.

"The council really had an opportunity to experience what the community has experienced by way of the workshops," said Don Duckworth, the city's redevelopment coordinator. "They seemed pleased and excited about the concept."

The financial plan is scheduled to be submitted to the City Council before the end of the month.

Mayor Jo Ann Darcy said she was happy about the general direction of the plan described during Tuesday's presentation but expressed concern over a proposal to ask some merchants, including automobile repair shops, to move, making way for more pedestrian-oriented retail businesses.

"That should be done much later," Darcy said.

Some city officials also expressed concerns that the revitalized downtown envisioned in the plan would not create new jobs for the surrounding neighborhood, primarily a low-income Latino community.

Jerome Nilssen, a representative of the Lutheran Social Services of Southern California, said he would like to see more emphasis put on a day laborer center near the new downtown where a variety of social services could be offered.

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