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Final approval expected on North Hollywood redevelopment plan

Plans to redevelop a struggling shopping plaza in North Hollywood have raised hopes for wider improvements along a commercial strip that was devastated by the 1994 Northridge earthquake and has long suffered blight.

The Los Angeles City Council and the Community Redevelopment Agency are expected to grant final approval today for the massive Laurel Canyon Commercial Corridor project. Among the planned improvements are the restoration of the Valley Plaza shopping center -- a 23-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Laurel Canyon and Victory boulevards -- and the relocation of an existing public park.

The final environmental impact report for Valley Plaza was approved last week by the City Council and the Community Redevelopment Agency board. The redevelopment agency will acquire commercial properties there by eminent domain.

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The shopping center and an adjoining residential development called Laurel Plaza are part of a larger 248-acre Earthquake Assistance Project for the Laurel Canyon Corridor.

“It’s a very significant step forward,” said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, a longtime supporter of development where people live within easy access to shops, offices, entertainment and transportation routes. “We’re excited it is going to make a community dream a reality.”

Representatives of J.H. Snyder Co., the Los Angeles builder that is developing both projects, did not return calls for comment. According to its website and permit information, the Valley Plaza shopping center would comprise 777,142 square feet and potentially be anchored by a Macy’s department store, a Target and a multiplex theater.

The site would also have a 32,000-square-foot discount electronics store and various specialty shops and eateries.

The development’s cost is pegged at about $333 million. The firm predicts the project will generate about 1,600 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent positions. “It’s going to really revitalize an area that has seen a lot of businesses leave,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.

The shopping center was one of the first to be built in the San Fernando Valley in the 1950s and used to house a popular skating rink.

The center began to decline in recent decades, however, and the Northridge earthquake dealt it a further blow. Many area residents said they were keen to have a commercial center on their doorstep.

“Now we have to go to Sherman Oaks, Burbank and Glendale to shop,” said Cary Adams, president of the Mid-Town North Hollywood Neighborhood Council, which represents about 70,000 residents. “We don’t want to go out of the community. We want to keep the jobs here. We want the tax money to remain here.”

Adams said he was eager to see work begin on the many vacant and boarded-up properties acquired for the project.

They “are a potential magnet for graffiti and vagrancy,” Adams said.

Judy Price, president of the Valley Glen Neighborhood Assn., said many in her community of 40,000 would welcome convenient access to department and chain stores, to complement the neighborhood mom-and-pop businesses.

But Price and other area residents are less happy about the adjoining Laurel Plaza project.

This would involve the renovation and remodeling of an existing Macy’s department store building to accommodate 742 multifamily residential units, including condominiums, apartments and town houses.

“We have concerns about density and usage of the residential portion,” Price said.

Before this could happen, Macy’s would have to agree to move its business to Valley Plaza -- a decision that is still pending, according to Sharon Bateman, a Macy’s spokeswoman.

Diann Corral, president of the Laurel Grove Neighborhood Assn., expressed frustration over what she viewed as Snyder’s failure to heed residents’ wishes.

“The community has been clear about what it wants,” Corral said. “We want businesses. Both lots should be commercial, maybe one of them for mixed use, where apartments are above the shops. Why would you downgrade a commercial lot to residential, when we need business?”

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ann.simmons@latimes.com


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