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Chinese developer teams up on big North Hollywood mixed-use project

Chinese developer teams up on big North Hollywood mixed-use project
Rendering of NoHo arts district project proposed by Greenland USA and Trammell Crow Co. (Greenland USA and Trammell Crow Co.)

A joint venture that includes a prominent Chinese developer is looking to redevelop nearly 16 acres surrounding the North Hollywood Red Line station, an ambitious plan that could include retail shops, offices and more than 1,000 residential units.

The project, a public-private partnership with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, took a step forward Thursday when the agency's board voted to enter into negotiations with Trammell Crow Co. and Greenland USA – a subsidiary of a Shanghai company constructing the massive Metropolis in downtown Los Angeles.

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The sprawling property, which now includes a surface parking lot and bus station, is the largest piece of Metro-owned land anywhere in the county that the agency wants to redevelop in a bid to add more housing near transit lines.

Backers of the mixed-use project at Lankershim and Chandler boulevards say it would further revitalize the surrounding area, which in the past 20 years has left behind its rundown reputation as transit stations have been built and an arts district blossomed with more than 20 live theaters.

"NoHo has had a resurgence because of the Red Line and the Orange Line," said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Assn., a San Fernando Valley business advocacy group. "Just imagine what is going to happen with that kind of development."

Metro and the two developers will now work toward crafting a final project proposal with the hopes of bringing one before the board by the end of 2018, said Wells Lawson, a director in the agency's joint development program. Construction could start in 2019.

Though plans for the NoHo arts district project are far from finalized, the possibilities are laid out in two options the team of Trammell and Greenland presented to the board.

A larger plan – at 2.5 million square feet – includes 1,500 housing units, 150,000 square-feet of retail, 450,000 square feet of office space and 5,400 parking spaces. Another smaller proposal would total 1.4 million square feet and include 750 housing units, 40,500 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of office space and 3,600 parking spaces.

In both options, 35% of the housing units would be reserved for lower-income households, and there would be retail shops and restaurants around a public square, the historic Lankershim train depot and the Red and Orange line stations.

"It becomes a spot that you go to on the weekends and evenings with your family and kids," said Brad Cox, senior managing director of Trammell Crow, a Dallas developer that is now a subsidiary of Los Angeles real estate services giant CBRE Group Inc.

The project – estimated to cost in the "hundreds of millions of dollars," according to Cox – would be one of the largest redevelopments in North Hollywood, where the now-defunct Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency invested in and subsidized real estate projects and theater renovations along Lankershim.

Among those projects was NoHo Commons near the Red Line station, a $250-million complex by Los Angeles developer J.H. Snyder & Co. It includes a multiplex, nearly 700 residential units, a 180,000-square-foot office building and 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

A previous plan to redevelop the acreage surrounding the North Hollywood Red Line stop fell apart amid the recession. But with the commercial real estate market on the upswing, Metro is moving forward once again.

The project would represent another big bet on U.S. real estate for Greenland, which is constructing the $1-billion Metropolis hotel and condo development near Staples Center, as well as a massive redevelopment project in downtown Brooklyn.

With North Hollywood, the Shanghai builder is looking outside the most highly sought after development sites, a growing trend for Chinese companies as they become more comfortable with building in the United States.

The company, in a statement, said it looks forward to transforming Metro's "underused North Hollywood property into a social and economic driver for the community."

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For its part, Trammell Crow developed 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Century City and plans to break ground soon on a roughly 350-unit residential complex near Union Station.

Lawson of Metro said the 15.6-acre North Hollywood project will be privately financed, though the agency may use public funding to rebuild its bus station on the site.

Metro would retain ownership of the land and Trammell and Greenland would enter into a long-term lease for the property assuming the the deal is finalized.

Councilman and Metro board member Paul Krekorian, who represents the area, said he wants to ensure that the final approved project includes adequate parking and features top-of-the-line retail and entertainment options.

"We have a rare opportunity to improve this already exciting area by bringing life to 15 acres of underutilized land and creating more economic activity in the heart of the NoHo Arts District,"  he said, in a prepared statement.

Lawson stressed that the proposals put forward by the developers are a starting point and community meetings will be held to hear input from neighbors and business owners.

"We are really looking to see how people are responding" to the plans, he said.

Diann Corral, president of the nearby Laurel Grove Neighborhood Assn., said the project looks "beautiful" but she's worried not enough people will take the Metro and the developers won't do enough to make sure traffic doesn't slow to a crawl.

"It's already a congested area," she said.

Follow me @khouriandrew on Twitter

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