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Except for One Small Detail, Bridge Dedication Is Red-Letter Occasion

July 17, 1990|JEFFREY BALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Had Charlotte Grossman seen it, those who knew her said, she would have chuckled at the blunder made Monday morning by city officials in Northridge as they tried to honor her memory.

Councilman Hal Bernson stood on a recently completed bridge designed to ease traffic on Nordhoff Street. He dedicated the structure to the late Grossman, a Northridge merchant, but as he spoke, a few of the 60 people listening whispered that something was wrong. They pointed to a gold-colored plaque, mounted on a cement guardrail, which misspelled her first name: "Charlette Grossman Memorial Bridge."

"She's giggling up there somewhere," Norman Grossman said of his late wife, who often laughed at herself for making mistakes when telling jokes. " 'Goofed again,' she's thinking."

Opened to traffic June 12, the bridge spans Southern Pacific railroad tracks and Limekiln Creek. The bridge is part of a $4-million connector road, nearly a half-mile long, that links two unaligned portions of Nordhoff Street, which had intersected Corbin Avenue from the east a quarter-mile north of where it crossed Corbin from the west.

The city has wanted to build the connector since 1972, but the project was not funded until 1986, when the Yarmouth Group, which owns the Northridge Fashion Center, agreed to pay $1.5 million of the cost in exchange for city permission to expand the mall. The payment qualified the project for federal matching funds needed to build the road, Bernson said.

Charlotte Grossman, who died in 1988, and her husband were among the first merchants to move into the Northridge Fashion Center when the mall opened in 1971. Bernson, who at one time owned a T-shirt shop next to the Grossmans' luggage store, said he wanted the bridge named for her because of its relationship to the mall and because construction began about the time of her death.

Charlotte Grossman died seven years after she and her husband closed their store. When the Yarmouth Group bought the shopping center in 1981, the firm decided the Grossmans' business was making too little money to justify its prime location in the mall, said Paul Wilson, a company senior vice president. The Grossmans refused the firm's offer of a less desirable spot in the shopping center, Wilson said, and the company decided not to renew the couple's lease. Wilson agreed that it was strange that the bridge his firm partly funded was dedicated to a merchant his company forced out of the mall. "I guess there could be some irony in there somewhere," Wilson said with a grin.

Of the misspelling of her name, Bernson said, "We'll fix it."

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