Projects Promise to Deliver Urban Flavor to Simi Valley


Once defined by citrus orchards and eucalyptus groves, the intersection of Tapo Canyon Road and Alamo Street is slowly shaping into what could be the closest thing to a downtown this tract-home suburb will have.

A series of developments--including, most recently, a proposal to more than double the size of City Hall--is promising to change the face of the city’s northeast area.

“This is what they’ve always envisioned as their town center,” said Robert D. Selleck II, who built on the intersection’s southwest corner a retail plaza that includes a Regal Cinemas, Men’s Wearhouse and Bed Bath & Beyond. That project, approved in 1998, was the first step toward the town center concept, said Selleck, a brother of actor Tom Selleck.


The developer is in escrow to buy 36 acres on the intersection’s northeast corner, and hopes to create a mixed-use center that would include townhomes, apartments and housing for senior citizens.

A large bookstore such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, an upscale grocery market and a department store are among businesses Selleck said he hopes to lure.

The shift from the single-family homes initially planned for the land came out of the city’s desire to offer varied housing as well as make the intersection a focal point, Selleck said. The former agriculture field, being sold by the Simi Valley Unified School District, also was once a potential high school site.

Across Alamo Street on the southeast corner is a strip mall built in the late 1980s and two vacant parcels once targeted for a drugstore but now getting a look from city planners for other uses, perhaps as a hotel site.

“The goal is to try to develop that intersection into the city center Simi Valley doesn’t really have,” Planning Commissioner Larry Fried said. “It will make a true civic center, assuming everything is done right.”

Plans Endorsed for City Hall Expansion

Similar efforts are underway in Thousand Oaks, where city officials hope to create a hub by adding a $40-million entertainment complex and a $70-million science and technology center to the Civic Arts Plaza, which houses city offices and a performing arts center.


In Simi Valley, at least 2,000 people a day are drawn to the northeast corner of Alamo and Tapo to pick up a driver’s license, pay a fine or check out library books at an array of government offices sprawling over a city block.

Earlier this week the council endorsed a conceptual plan to build a two-story, 40,000-square-foot addition to the west end of City Hall.

An addition, officials say, would improve service by creating a one-stop center rather than forcing residents and business owners to travel to as many as three buildings to get things done in the city.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a long time. It just doesn’t make sense the way it is now,” said Mayor Bill Davis, adding that he gets at least 20 comments a day about the city’s Planning and Community Services Department being in a building a block from other key administrative offices. And some Public Works Department offices are in another building about seven miles away.

The timing is right, added Davis, citing an economy that is still strong in California and because the project can be coordinated with expansion plans at the adjacent senior center.

One neighborhood council official said centralizing resident services seems to be a good idea.


“If they’ve had a few good years, it’s probably best to invest it now and have the space for the future rather then when things aren’t so rosy,” said Bob Desparicio, who heads a nearby neighborhood group.

Larger-Than-Necessary Parcel Was Bought

Cost estimates for the addition are not yet known, though market construction rates would put it between $3.2 million and $6 million, said Brian Gabler, deputy city manager. The existing facility, built in 1984 with an add-on in 1987, is 25,600 square feet and cost $3.8 million.

Gabler said the city purposely bought a larger-than-necessary parcel with the intention of eventually expanding. Old plans still call for a performing arts center in the complex, Gabler said, but it is unclear whether that remains a priority.

Selleck said the city’s expansion project fits what he is trying to do at the intersection. Although some neighbors have objected to the apartment component of his project, Selleck said it is key to making the “downtown” concept work, in part because it creates more pedestrian traffic.

City leaders, when they gave Selleck approval to file his application, agreed.

“It’s already a hub, and truly the center of Simi Valley,” Selleck said. “This is just going to make it even more so in the future. It should be a project with more of an urban flavor.”