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Project Aims to Make Northridge a ‘Destination’

Mayor Selects Reseda Boulevard by CSUN for Great Streets Initiative

By Matt Thacker on April 12, 2014.

Reseda Boulevard near Cal State Northridge was selected for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday during his first “State of the City” Address that Reseda Boulevard in Northridge was one of 15 streets selected for his Great Streets Initiative.

“On Reseda Boulevard next to Cal State Northridge, we’re going to create a place for town and gown to come together,” he said during the speech.

Garcetti also named Gaffey and Figueroa streets and Crenshaw, Westwood and Van Nuys boulevards. These streets, he said, would be the “standard-bearers of a revitalized city.” In addition to naming six of the 15 streets which will be rolled out in the Spring, Garcetti gave his most detailed explanation of the project. He said these thoroughfares will be more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists, and they will have plant life, local art and plazas which will help businesses flourish.

The news was applauded in Northridge where community leaders have created an ambitious plan for redevelopment but will need help with implementation.

“It’s the biggest thing we could hope for,” said Councilmember Mitch Englander, who represents the area. “This enhancement plan, vision plan, coupled with the mayor’s plan is really the thing we needed to get to the next step.”

In 2012, Englander’s office, the three neighborhood councils in Northridge and the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce released a vision and strategic concept plan for the neighborhood. Robert Scott, project director for the Mulholland Institute, said the manifestation of the vision plan requires effort from the public and private sectors.

“It’s very gratifying to see that the city fathers and mothers are taking notice of the activity and the hard work that’s been taken by dozens of community activists,” Scott said.

Englander said the corridor along Reseda Boulevard is the gateway to Northridge and CSUN. The university has 38,000 students but is largely viewed as a commuter school. The vision plan calls for a “University Village” personality with a connection to the business district.

“It’s a destination transit university where people come and then they leave,” Englander said. “We want people to come and dine and go to cafes and bookstores, art galleries and hang around and enjoy everything that Northridge has to offer.”

The $125-million Valley Performing Arts Center on the south end of campus has drawn excitement and visitors, but the next step is encouraging people to explore the area. Scott believes creating visual cues for shopping, dining and recreating is essential.

“Oftentimes when people are on a street like Reseda Boulevard, they have no sense of place. They have no sense that they’re passing through a particular community or a particular center,” Scott said. “Part of the idea is to capture their imagination and realize this is actually a destination.”

Planning has been ongoing since 2008, Scott said, but some opportunities for growth have been missed due to the recession. In some respects, excitement has waned since the planning began, but an improving economy and support from the city could revive interest. Scott said dollars are loosening up, and people are looking for places to set up businesses and invest.

Englander said they are looking to secure grant funding, street rehabilitation funding and façade improvement funding for the project. The Great Streets Initiative should help streamline the city’s involvement. Garcetti said one of their main priorities is making various city departments work together to coordinate projects.

Scott also hopes the initiative might move up the timeline for the Northridge community plan. The Department of City Planning indicated an interest in incorporating some of their vision plan. The city has 35 community plans which are updated when funding is available.

The vision plan was already adopted by the City Council – the first time a document of its kind was adopted as a guiding document.

“We hope this will be considered by the community as a living document that from time to time will be amended to reflect the current state of the community,” Scott said.

The plan looks five, 10 and 20 years into the future, but it’s not clear how quickly changes will begin.

“As far as the time-frame goes, it’s really a matter of how much buy-in is received from the various stakeholders, so to have the mayor recognize that boulevard as a target for its Great Streets Initiative is a huge step forward,” Scott said.


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