After years of design changes and project delays, a troubled North Hollywood redevelopment project finally appears to be headed toward construction. The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency board in September approved $31.7 million in loans and subsidies to aid the $194-million NoHo Commons infill project. The 16-acre NoHo Commons project site sits in a blighted North Hollywood neighborhood and adjacent to the newly constructed Metro Red Line Station. The mixed-use project has undergone several modifications and now contains approximately 810 residential apartment units (247 units of which will be loft-style live-work spaces); 228,000 square feet of retail space that will include a 50,000-square-foot supermarket; 200,000 square feet of office space; a community health center; and a child care center. The development is the largest mixed-use project adjacent to a Metro station. NoHo Commons is part of a larger North Hollywood redevelopment project overseen by the mayor-appointed Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The agency is managing a 740-acre redevelopment project to bolster the arts and entertainment district. Along with the NoHo Commons project, the CRA plans to build new single-family homes and restore the historic Lankershim Train Depot. This is the third adaptation of the problem-plagued NoHo Commons project since original plans were unveiled in 1999. At that time, the proposal called for a $1 billion, 4 million-square-foot development to include larger retail, residential and office spaces as well as a hotel, multi-screen cinema, and film sound stages. But when the market turned sour, the previous developer, J. Allen Radford, dramatically downsized the project. Then in February, lacking financial backing, Radford agreed to sign over rights to the property to developer J. H. Snyder in exchange for a 12.5% share in the project. The troubled project seemed to make progress when Snyder took control. The mixed-use project was last scaled back in July only after the Los Angeles Unified School District proposed building a high school on some of the property originally set-aside for the development. Los Angeles Unified School District plans to build a school on about eight acres, said David Stolzer, senior real estate development agent for the CRA. The Los Angeles-based J. H. Snyder touts development of many retail, office and residential projects, but senior partner Cliff Goldstein said that Snyder has never integrated all of these elements into one mixed-use project of this magnitude. "This is our attempt to remove a blighted area and be a catalyst for redevelopment in the North Hollywood area," Goldstein said. "And we want to build a new community that will utilize mass transportation." The community surrounding NoHo Commons will get ample opportunity to make use of the nearby subway. The rail station will be easily accessible from the Commons and the Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to develop 13 acres of its nearby property to enhance the rail station, Goldstein said. Absent from the infill project is the usual opposition from neighborhood residents. In fact, North Hollywood Residents Association President Victor Viereck said he is eager to see the project move along. When it comes to shopping, area residents do not have many options and must drive to Burbank and Sherman Oaks to shop, he said. "I am eager to see it happen, finally," Viereck said. "Anyone familiar with North Hollywood knows there is no downtown to it. … This [project] needs to be done." Goldstein said ample retail, such as a supermarket, restaurants, small storefronts, and a major bookstore, will be available, but the developer is staying away from big-box retailers common in large malls. Despite a good reception from residents, the welcome wagon is not exactly revving its engine. The North Hollywood Residents Association does oppose one aspect of the project: the $31.7 million CRA project funding. Viereck argued that Snyder should be responsible for the entire tab of the project and that taxpayers should not have to foot any part of the bill. But he does not blame the developer. Viereck instead blames the CRA, complaining that the agency is largely responsible for the lack of progress in the North Hollywood area. "It has been delayed for so long, and the CRA has been the main reason why nothing has happened until now." Viereck says. "The CRA is an additional layer of bureaucracy for the developer to go through." Without the CRA, other areas of the city have developed property faster and more efficiently, Viereck charged, pointing to efforts in Sherman Oaks and Northridge. While it opposes the public funding of NoHo Commons, the North Hollywood Residents Association has not made any demands on the project. But one labor advocacy group, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), has made demands on the project. The group has worked with the CRA and NoHo Commons developers for two years to hammer out a deal that LAANE says satisfies the local community. According to Goldstein, the community benefits package that the three disparate groups signed includes a promise that 75% of the employment at NoHo Commons will be living-wage jobs, and there will be an on-site health care clinic, an affordable child care facility and a one-stop job resources center. Roxane Auer, a researcher for the LAANE accountable development project said that her organization met numerous times with North Hollywood residents to assess the community needs. After deciding on several elements, including living-wage jobs and affordable child care, LAANE put together a six-member negotiating team that bargained with the CRA and Snyder for concessions. LAANE does not oppose the subsidy like the NoHo Residents Association does, but it does believe that when taxpayer subsidies are used for private developments, workers should be compensated with living-wage jobs. Auer said that many projects receive public subsidies, and those projects need to be accountable to the communities where they are built. LAANE's mission, she said, is to work with those projects and not against them. "At first they might have been reluctant to deal with us, but they were receptive to our ideas," Auer said of NoHo Commons proponents. "And after a time they realized that we had very focused concerns." Although LAANE did not get everything it wanted out of the bargaining sessions, Auer called the community benefits package they did receive a "major step forward" in the development process. The NoHo Commons project has just one more step on its way to groundbreaking. The Los Angeles City Council must give final approval to the project. A vote is scheduled for this fall, and developers plan to break ground on the first of three phases in June 2002. Goldstein says that barring any further delays, NoHo Commons should be complete sometime in 2006. Contacts: David Stolzer, Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, (818) 753-1918. Cliff Goldstein, J.H. Snyder (323) 857-5546. Victor Viereck, North Hollywood Residents Association, (818) 985-9174. Roxane Auer, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, (213) 486-9880. LAANE website: