After years of failed attempts to revitalize the North Hollywood commercial district, local business leaders have one more trick up their sleeves: a farmers market in the parking lot of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
"Farmers markets have been very successful in the Valley and we thought that it would be a great boost to the area," said Joe Hooven, president of the Universal City-North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which has tentatively agreed to undertake the project.
The proposal is the latest in a string of efforts meant to turn Lankershim Boulevard and the surrounding area into a destination shopping and dining experience comparable to Old Pasadena or Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.
The most notable attempt is a long delayed multi-use commercial and retail center, first introduced 12 years ago, at Lankershim and Weddington Street. A scaled-down version of that original project, now being developed by J.H. Snyder Co., is slowly working its way through the pipeline with a construction start possible in 2002 or 2003.
But there also have been arts festivals, arts districts, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences complex and a proposed business improvement district. Still, business owners say they've grown weary of attempts to revitalize the local economy.Few customers from subway
Many had high hopes for the opening of the new Metro Red Line Station along Lankershim, which would bring commuters to a commercial district filled with shops, restaurants and boutiques. Those hoped-for customers have not materialized.
"People get off the Metro, get in their cars and leave, or they jump on the bus and head north," complained Brian Sheehan, owner of the Eclectic Caf & #233;, along Lankershim. "They're not the kind of people who are going to drop $25 for dinner."
The 1993 establishment of the annual North Hollywood Arts Festival has also drawn mixed reviews from merchants, who say the festival provides many customers, but few who return once the festival closes.
"You get some who come back, but not a lot," said Mike Nguyen, owner of the Chinese Delight restaurant on Lankershim.
Mary Garcia, head of the Arts District's Chandler Outdoor Gallery, said the 31 theaters and assorted eateries in the arts district are doing well, but are not providing the shot in the arm many had hoped for.
"Part of it is the bad economy and the other is that it's difficult to attract a lot of people when you have a lot of different places that people can go," she said, referring to competing shopping areas throughout Los Angeles.
In 1990, area merchants thought the $350 million Academy of Television Arts and Sciences complex would kick-start a revitalization. "They were supposed to put a hotel right next to it and that would have really changed things, but that hotel never got off the ground," said Loretta Dash, past president of the Universal City-North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
Some still hope the much-delayed establishment of the North Hollywood Business Improvement District will do the trick. "I have no doubt that we'll be successful," said Ken Banks, executive director of the North Hollywood Community Forum, which is heading the business district effort.
Banks' optimism is shared by those who see the area's revitalization as simply a matter of time.
"We've just had a lot of bad luck in North Hollywood," said Dash, who is also a partner in the accounting firm of Davis & Dash.Following Studio City
"I think the farmers market is going to bring a lot of people into the area," Dash said. "If you look at Studio City, you see how much businesses have benefited."
Polly Ward, manager of the Studio City Farmers Market, said, "Studio City used to be dead on Sunday mornings. No one would be out. But now, it's living and vibrant, with people going into shops and restaurants and with families and their kids walking around."
Ward estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 people visit the market during the four hours it's open each week. "We started with 25 vendors and we just kept growing. Now we have 65," she said.
"But for (the North Hollywood) market to be successful, they'll have to market themselves and spend money to do it," she said.
An estimated $25,000 will be needed initially to publicize the proposed North Hollywood market, Ward said, with mailers, cable television, newspaper ads and street banners.
Ward said the proposed market probably is "too close" to hers, but it could turn out to be a non-issue if it targets local residents and not those in Studio City.
Howell Tumlin, executive director of the Southland Farmers' Market Association, said the popularity of farmers markets in general makes it ideal for North Hollywood, which has a built-in audience because of the sizable population within just a few miles.
"Markets have traditionally helped businesses. A growing number of chambers and business organizations inquire with us about setting up their own farmers markets," Tumlin said.
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