From the Editor's Desk by Carol Cormaci
This week's news that La Cañada Properties has tapped Darren Mattix to develop its acreage in the heart of the downtown commercial area should be welcomed on all fronts.
Mattix is a local man who participated in the community workshops that preceded the November 2000 adoption of the Downtown Village Specific Plan. He's lived here for nearly a decade, has upscale retail development experience in Beverly Hills, and a warm personality that was sorely missing in the last Sport Chalet development go-around.
I often thought, as I was sitting in on the 111 public hearings (no exaggeration) for the late 1990's iteration of Norbert Olberz' dream - a shopping center complex anchored by his beloved Sport Chalet - that if his hired developer had just had a more engaging personality and a greater willingness to listen to what the community had to say about his project, things would have gone more smoothly for everyone involved. Instead, there was a sense - one more than one occasion - that a line was being drawn in the asphalt and that the center would just have to be approved as Olberz wanted it, period.
Any property owner would understand the desire to build on one's land whatever one wants to build. I do. Anyone who knows the history of how Olberz was pushed by the city about 25 years ago to amass properties so he could build his shopping center can feel his pain when the first project approved for that property, in July 1990, was not to his liking. When he tried again (in the 1997-1999 effort), it became a contentious nightmare for the town and he felt rebuffed. I think it's safe to say most people in this community empathize with him.
But a shopping center smack dab in the center of town not only has to be economically viable; it has to appeal aesthetically to the locals. The City Council seated in the spring of 1999 rightfully overturned the previous council's approval of developer Art Pearlman's "Village Center" and embarked on the process leading to the development and adoption of the Downtown Village Specific Plan.
They also had the foresight to include an environmental impact report for the specific plan, which should save some time as the shopping park, envisioned by Mattix, begins to work its way through the system.
I've studied the preliminary plan and I can readily see how Mattix has incorporated elements sought by the community members who participated in the specific plan workshops, including the "north road" to improve traffic flow, a pocket park, buildings along the streets so the parking lots won't be seen from Foothill or Angeles Crest, and plenty of trees to further soften the look of the project. I'm optimistic. And I think you should be, too. Congratulations to the Olberz family and La Cañada Properties for hanging in there. I believe the final result will be a shopping center well supported by the community and a source of local pride.