By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD
A plan by redevelopment officials to create an urban village in North Hollywood featuring artist’s lofts, restaurants and stores has sparked the interest of a dozen developers, including a large Atlanta-based real estate investment trust.
Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency officials are preparing to request bids from developers to turn 11 acres of mostly rundown industrial property west of Lankershim Boulevard into what the CRA hopes will become an enclave for artists, actors, animators and other creative types.
It’s up to prospective developers to come up with specific plans for the site, but CRA officials will encourage bidders to build condominium-style studios to entice artists to live in the area. In addition, the agency will ask developers to restore a turn-of-the-century train station across the street from the North Hollywood Metro Rail Red Line Station.
“These could be the starter homes of the ’90s,” said Walter Beaumont, assistant project manager for the North Hollywood redevelopment project. “People could get in for a reasonable amount, and have a studio in an urban setting.”
One developer interested in the project is Atlanta-based Post Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust with $2 billion in assets that specializes in developing apartment and condominium housing in distressed areas.
Cliff Ratkovich, the company’s vice president of development, declined to say whether his company would bid on the project, expressing concern about tipping off competitors.
But Beaumont said the company has approached the city agency about developing 1,000 housing units on the property and Ratkovich and other Post representatives have visited the site.
Ron Kinder, a Los Angeles-based Realtor and developer, confirmed that Post asked him to scout out properties for possible development, a search that led him to the North Hollywood site.
The scheduled completion of the Metro Rail station for spring 2000, coupled with the plans for sound stages and office buildings as part of another redevelopment project on an adjacent 42 acres, make it a prime location, Kinder said.
“There’s a great stimulus for growth,” he said. “You have so many studios and offices within five minutes of North Hollywood. There’s a lack of quality housing and the potential for an urban village.”
While Beaumont and other CRA officials see the project as a way to revitalize the fading retail strip along Lankershim and bring higher-income residents to the mostly low-income area, some critics are dubious about the artist-loft concept, considering it has been something of a flop elsewhere in L.A.
Mildred Weller, a longtime CRA critic, doubted whether lofts would sell or that a developer could provide sufficient space in a condo to suit artists looking for airy surroundings or large spaces to do their work.
Weller also questioned whether North Hollywood can accommodate the 11-acre project in addition to the 42-acre redevelopment effort proposed for the east side of Lankershim. The two projects, which are being reviewed by the CRA, would add between 1.8 million and 4.3 million square feet of sound stages, offices and other uses to the area.
“This will be a nightmare of traffic,” Weller said. “We’ve got too much traffic for what density we have now.”
Beaumont maintains that North Hollywood could more than handle the density of all the proposed development.