Downtown Newhall revitalization reached a major benchmark on July 8, 1997 when the Santa Clarita City Council approved the Newhall Redevelopment Plan. This event marked the close of the planning stage and the beginning of formal revitalization activities!
First some background:
Many of you probably remember the very first community workshop conducted by the city and revitalization expert Michael Freedman in January, 1995. The workshops continued until January 1996 and were well attended. The input that came from the merchants, property owners and residents of Newhall and the rest of Santa Clarita resulted in the Downtown Newhall Improvement Program, otherwise known as the "Freedman Plan."
This plan described a course of action and outlined programs, projects and policies to restore economic and physical vitality to downtown Newhall. It identified eight specific revitalization goals:
- Expand the convenience and comparison-specialty economic niches;
- Create an attractive main street environment on San Fernando Road to attract new shoppers and businesses;
- Create a memorable image that expresses Newhall's history and character;
- Establish programs to promote private sector investment;
- Enhance the role of downtown Newhall as a community center;
- Maintain and capitalize on the visibility and access associated with through-traffic;
- Improve the parking supply;
- Build special facilities that attract a wide visitor base.
One of the key recommendations of the Downtown Newhall Improvement Program was the establishment of a redevelopment project area to provide the city money, in the form of tax increment financing, for some of the projects outlined in the plan.
In August, 1996, the City Council hired GRC Redevelopment Consultants to prepare a formal redevelopment plan for Newhall. In November the Council appointed a 17-member Redevelopment Committee to review redevelopment proposals in depth and make recommendations to the Redevelopment Agency board (the City Council).
Redevelopment Committee members include: Frank Maga, chairman; Leon Worden, vice chairman; Marc Aronson, Larry Bird, Philip Ellis, Tony Inderbitzen, Mary Merritt, Vartan Vahramian, Gregory Wiese, Victor Feany, Estelle Foley, Thomas Frew, Cynthia Mitchell, Viki Rudolph, Lloyd Sreden, Tiffanie Scott, and Howard Stowitts.
Between December, 1996 and June, 1997 the Newhall Redevelopment Committee reviewed many long and detailed redevelopment plan documents, among them the Preliminary Report, Draft Redevelopment Plan, Eligible Project List, Environmental Impact Report, Relocation Method, Owner Participation Rules, and the final Redevelopment Plan.
Much of the credit for the expeditious formation of the redevelopment project area goes to the Newhall Redevelopment Committee. The committee spent countless hours, meeting on average twice a month, to move the various documents forward. By June of this year the committee completed its review of the Newhall Redevelopment Plan and, although it includes areas outside of downtown Newhall, recommended that the initial redevelopment activities focus on downtown Newhall.
On July 8 the City Council adopted the plan, together with the committee's recommendation that fixing up downtown Newhall should be the first order of business.
Today, downtown Newhall revitalization is moving full speed ahead! The Newhall Redevelopment Committee is busy examining finance, architectural design and marketing issues.
The Finance Subcommittee is looking at ways to pay for improvements in downtown Newhall and is responsible for budgeting the proposals brought forth by the other subcommittees.
The Codes, Design and Capital Improvements Subcommittee should complete its review of the development standards outlined in the Freedman Plan in the next few months. Once the standards are approved by the full committee, as well as by the Planning Commission and City Council, they will become the "blueprint" for all development in the downtown core. The architectural standards are expected to be in place by early 1998.
The Marketing, Promotion and Recruitment Subcommittee is considering several relatively inexpensive but high-impact programs to help the downtown shopping district. These include an updated, comprehensive marketing study; several special events (such as a Farmers Market); a brochure to promote the area; and regular publicity and updates in the Old Town Newhall Gazette. The subcommittee is targeting these programs to take effect within the next twelve months.
Several important capital improvement projects are moving forward in downtown Newhall already.
Groundbreaking for the Railroad Avenue reconstruction and widening project will take place at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, September 24 at the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and Market Street. Roadwork should be finished in January, 1998.
Once completed, Railroad Avenue will be 85 feet wide, accommodating two travel lanes (one in each direction); a two-way left turn lane; parking on both sides of the street; and curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The city is presently considering the installation of decorative Victorian street lights on the new and improved roadway. The project is being financed with state and federal grant money from the Economic Development Administration and the Community Development Block Grant program.
The other exciting project that is about to get underway is a new Metrolink Station in downtown Newhall. The station will be architecturally consistent with the guidelines in the Freedman Plan, and the Newhall Redevelopment Committee will play a big role in its final design. The committee will hold public meetings on the station's design this fall.
The station will be the city's third, financed with grant money from the Metropolitan Transit Authority. This station -- and the Railroad Avenue improvements -- constitute a $7 million public investment in downtown Newhall and are expected to stimulate significant private-sector investment in the area.
As you can see, the revitalization of downtown Newhall has begun and will continue in the years to come. The hard work and commitment of so many people is starting to turn the vision to restoring Newhall into a reality!
Of course, complete revitalization of the area will not happen overnight. It will take time, but the city is confident that Newhall is on the road to recovery.
Meetings of the Newhall Redevelopment Committee are open to the public. The committee meets on the first Monday of each month (except holidays) at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers, 23920 W. Valencia Boulevard. Please attend a meeting and share your ideas!
In the meantime, if you have any questions about downtown Newhall revitalization or the Redevelopment Plan, please contact Glenn Adamick at the City of Santa Clarita, (805) 255-4330.
Glenn Adamick is an Associate Planner for the City of Santa Clarita.