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CSUN Apartments Started : Part of University Park Project in Northridge

September 20, 1987

Construction has begun on University Park, a $150-million mixed-use complex on a 100-acre Northridge site formerly known as Devonshire Downs.

The project, which will take an estimated 14 years to complete, will eventually provide housing for 3,200 students attending adjacent California State University, Northridge.

Plans also call for construction of a 20,000-seat stadium, a 2,050-seat auditorium, several other campus-related facilities, restaurants, a hotel and six low-rise office buildings.

The project is a joint effort of the California State University system and Watt Investment Properties Inc., an affiliate of Santa Monica-based developer Watt Enterprises. It is believed to be the largest partnership ever to combine private development with a university capital improvement plan, and will provide the school with $150 million in buildings at no cost to taxpayers.

Owned by State

The 100-acre state-owned parcel is bounded by Devonshire and Plummer streets and Zelzah and Lindley avenues.

The first structures to be built on the site are five three-story student apartment houses. They will house a total of 800 students when completed in the fall of 1988.

Ten more apartment structures will be erected by 1990, providing housing for 1,600 more students.

The apartments and stadium, to be started in 1992, are the largest components of the project.

The $3-million profit the developer expects to make by building the apartments will be contributed to the university to pay for the first phase of a 20,000-square-foot conference center, three acres of botanical gardens and a "botanical belt" that will wind through the entire development.

Master-Plan Elements

Additional elements in University Park's 14-year master plan, conceived by Beverly Hills-based Gin Wong Associates, include:

--Cultural and performing-arts complex with a 2,050-seat auditorium. The complex will also include a 10,000-square-foot art gallery, and a 500-seat theater that can be used for student recitals or other activities.

--Recreation center with Olympic-size swimming pool.

--A 10,000-square-foot technology institute.

--Seven-acre media center with telecommunications and audio-visual equipment.

--A 200-room hotel on the southwest corner of Devonshire and Zelzah. The first 125 rooms will be ready by 1990.

--Two 7,500-square-foot restaurants adjacent to the hotel, also expected to be ready by 1990.

--Six three- or four-story office buildings, for the use of the university and private businesses. The structures will provide a combined 500,000 square feet of space, with construction beginning by 1990.

--Parking for 5,300 cars.

Leases for 75 Years

Terms of the agreement between Watt and the Cal State system call for the university to grant ground leases of up to 75 years to Watt. The developer will share rental profits from the office buildings with the university system. The system will use the money it receives from Watt to pay off the tax-exempt revenue bonds that will be issued to finance construction of the campus-related facilities.

Watt/Parker Inc., another affiliate of Watt Enterprises, is responsible for building the $45-million housing segment of the project. Designed by Encino-based Berman, Bertolini & Crawford Inc., the 15 three-story buildings will be erected south of Lassen Street between Zelzah and Lindley avenues. A pedestrian bridge across Lassen will link the new apartments with the other new buildings and existing student housing facilities north of Lassen.

New student housing facilities are sorely needed, university officials say. Existing facilities can only accomodate 672 students, and the waiting list for on-campus housing has grown to 1,600 applicants. A recent study conducted for the campus shows a potential need of housing for as many as 4,750 students.

Three acres of botanical gardens will be created south of the new apartments. Another seven acres of botanical landscaping, with a walkway and jogging path, will provide a greenbelt through the development from Lassen to Devonshire.

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