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Saturday, May 28, 2022

GM Plants

Development plans for the former General Motors plant in Van Nuys firmed up last week with the announcement that the project would break ground within three months and that four major retail tenants had signed leases.

“This development is a signal that the San Fernando Valley economy is not just back, but it’s better,” Mayor Richard Riordan said in a speech at the ceremony. “This was a ghost industrial center, and now we have the commitment to rebuild it.”

The project’s four major tenants which are scheduled to open for business next May are Home Depot, Ross Dress for Less, Babies R Us and Office Max.

Several smaller tenants were also announced last week, including In-N-Out Burger, Mode Five Clothing, Chief Auto Parts and Radio Shack.

While city officials and the developers were all smiles in making the retail-related announcements, their expressions became less cheerful when asked about the progress made so far in filling the 600,000 square feet of industrial space at the site.

“We’ve got two proposals for the industrial part, but both have some problems before we can sign them,” said Assistant Deputy Mayor Rocky Delgadillo.

The biggest proposal is from Marvin Engineering Co. Inc., which hopes to lease the vast majority of the 600,000 square feet of industrial space at the site. Delgadillio would not confirm Marvin’s involvement in negotiations, but company officials say they are interested in consolidating their four plants, currently spread across L.A. and Orange counties, at the site.

In late June, Executive Vice President Jerry Friedman at Marvin Engineering said his company might reach a decision on the move by the end of July or August, and hinted that other locations may be under review. He would not elaborate on what issues were being studied. However, Delgadillo intimated that the company with the “largest proposal” was having problems getting out of its existing lease agreements.

Marvin Engineering runs plants in Inglewood, West Los Angeles and Irvine, and has a subsidiary in Valencia.

The only other company proposing to locate at the GM site’s industrial center is Ricon Corp. of Pacoima, which calls itself the world’s largest maker of wheelchair lifts and customized minivans equipped for wheelchairs.

“We are looking at 150,000 square feet,” said Andrew Loduha Jr., president of Ricon, which is feeling the squeeze of its current 105,000 square feet of space. “Right now we’re working on a package to finance it.”

Delgadillo said that the most desired tenant from the standpoint of the city and developers is “the aerospace company,” because a single tenant is more convenient to manage and because aerospace workers are typically well paid.

City officials watched with chagrin as the Northeast Valley deteriorated after the General Motors assembly plant closed in 1992. Since then, officials have been trying to find a way to replace the 2,600 or so jobs that disappeared with the closure. The 100-acre site has been zoned for a 30-acre industrial park and 356,000 square feet of new retail space on the 36-acre western portion of the property.

Two Valley developers, Selleck Development Group Inc. and Voit Cos., have formed a partnership to develop the site. Between $75 million and $80 million will be invested in the project.

At the July 1 ceremony to announce the retail line-up, held on a parched field near the vacant plant, politicians, developers and representatives from area homeowners groups marveled at the broad support for the project.

“Everybody involved had the realization that something had to be done with this site,” said Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Association. “We support this project and hope it will move ahead quickly.”

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