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West Valley Focus

ENCINO : Neighbors Are Pleased Over End of Eyesore

November 12, 1994|ED BOND and KAY HWANGBO

The once so-called "Lake Hayvenhurst," an eyesore at Ventura Boulevard and Hayvenhurst Avenue, has been transformed into a $20-million shopping center in less than six months, and both the developer and local homeowners will celebrate Tuesday.

"I'm delighted to see it opening," said Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, which had doggedly fought every other developer of the site until Rick Caruso offered what they wanted last year--a single-level shopping center.

"I'm hoping that the developer will continue to be sensitive to the neighbors just north of the site," Silver added.

Stores at the Encino Marketplace--which Caruso of Caruso Affiliated Holdings described as the largest completed project in Los Angeles since the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake--will open to the public Thursday. But an invitation-only party for 400 people will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday with Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and such celebrities as Phil Hartman, John Goodman, Gary Owens and Steve Allen in attendance.

Caruso speeded up the construction schedule for the 95,000-square-foot shopping center, which would have normally taken a year, so that the businesses could be open for the holiday season. Local homeowner support helped push through city approvals for the project within a couple of months.

The new shopping center has a Ralphs supermarket, Barnes & Noble bookstore, Starbuck's coffeehouse, and Blockbuster video and music store. The center is the first development to occupy the site since removal of contaminated soil from leaking underground gas tanks in 1990.

Caruso said the large hole--which filled with water during rains--was also the remains of a subterranean parking garage. It took 90,000 cubic yards of dirt from the Sepulveda Basin to fill in the hole last year.

"Several developers lost big bucks until Caruso said, 'I'm coming to the community first, not last,' " Silver said.

The shopping center was built in a Mediterranean style with red roofs, hand-carved stone columns and low-fired brick from Mexico, as well as a stone fountain. The community had rejected other plans for the site, including a six-story hotel and movie theaters.

"The designer did a superb job of putting in a single-story facility that is compatible with the neighborhood," Silver said.

"It's my favorite," Caruso said of the shopping center, "because it's just been a great experience."

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