Leon Worden

Newhall revitalization finally coming together

Leon Worden · March 12, 1997

What do you think about the redevelopment plan for Newhall? That's what the City of Santa Clarita will be asking tonight at a big public meeting at the SCV Senior Center.

After years of preparation, plans for revitalizing historic Old Town Newhall are finally coming together. The City Council approved a revitalization strategy last summer, and city staffers have been busy laying the groundwork ever since.

Nicknamed the "Freedman Plan" after the lead consultant who packaged the ideas of local residents, merchants and property owners into a comprehensive outline, the strategy calls for a number of public and private financing mechanisms to get revitalization going and bring to downtown Newhall the types of boutiques, restaurants, theaters and services that Santa Claritans say they want.

One proposed financing mechanism is redevelopment, a vital if sometimes controversial way to improve an area without raising taxes on anyone inside or outside of the redevelopment district. With strong community support, the Council voted unanimously last year to devise a modest redevelopment plan, and appointed a 17-member panel to hold public meetings and lend advice throughout the process.

Unlike the rules that applied to an earlier redevelopment attempt, the current plan must comply with a 1994 law which has the effect of limiting the impact redevelopment can have on other public agencies, such as school and water districts.

The proposed redevelopment plan for Newhall encompasses the downtown area as well as the Lyons Avenue corridor to Calgrove on the west, San Fernando Road to Highway 14 on the south, and San Fernando to Magic Mountain Parkway on the north. The boundaries are not yet cast in concrete. Tonight's meeting is designed to gauge the pulse of the community and learn what areas people think should be included or excluded from the redevelopment zone.

"We plan to explain why we selected the boundaries and what it means to be in a redevelopment area," said economic development associate Glenn Adamick, who added that 5,000 meeting notices were sent to affected property owners, merchants and residents. Many of those answers will come from Brice Russell, whose Diamond Bar-based consulting firm is crafting the formal redevelopment plan.

Attendees tonight can also expect to hear about the coming Metrolink station and the opening of Railroad Avenue to through-traffic.

Councilwoman Jan Heidt, a Metrolink board member, was instrumental in persuading the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to approve funding for a new train station at the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Market Street, where Newhall Hardware's Garden Center now stands. The city is currently negotiating property acquisition.

The station, slated for the exact site where the historic Newhall Depot once stood, is expected not only to bring tourists and shoppers into downtown Newhall, but also to provide mass transit opportunities for people in Newhall and Valencia who would otherwise have to drive north to ride the trains south.

The station will be built in a Western-Victorian style as outlined in the Freedman Plan, and the public will have opportunities to influence its design. Construction should begin early next year.

Construction will happen even sooner on Railroad Avenue as the street becomes an important north-south corridor, accommodating the creation of an Old Town setting along San Fernando Road. Railroad will be improved to two lanes (one in each direction) with a center turn lane. Financed through a combination of state and federal grants, roadwork should begin in August.

As you can see, the city is not hanging its hat entirely on redevelopment to bring new life to Newhall. In addition to Railroad Avenue improvements and the train station, the city is also using grant monies to install new curbs, gutters and sidewalks in West Newhall. In effect, the city is bringing home some of the tax dollars we've already paid to the county, state and federal governments.

As currently envisioned, redevelopment itself won't generate a great deal of revenue in the first five years. Nonetheless, it remains an important tool which will enable public officials to package properties for private investors, who represent by far the biggest source of funding for the Old Town Newhall of tomorrow.

The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. tonight at the SCV Senior Center, 22900 Market St., Newhall.

Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

comments powered by Disqus