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Northridge | Valley Focus

Retail Center Proposal Gets Chilly Reception

August 22, 1996|DAVID E. BRADY

To supporters, it is a lifestyle shopping center, an upscale retail district designed to create jobs for Cal State Northridge students and revenue for the university.

To opponents, it's just an ugly strip mall, a business behemoth that will bring unwanted noise, traffic and economic competition to the neighborhood.

It is the University MarketCenter, a proposed 20-acre retail development on CSUN's North Campus property that drew more than 200 people to a public hearing at the college Tuesday night.

Designed as a forum for community members to voice concerns about the environmental effects of the 225,000-square-foot project, the nearly two-hour meeting was devoted largely to more than 20 speakers who almost unanimously blasted the proposal as an inappropriate venture for a public institution.

"We cannot support the conversion of state land to commercial use," said Jim East of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce, which has joined other San Fernando Valley chambers in opposing the project.

"When the university speaks of rent they will gain, we in the business community see that as competition," said Barry Pascal, owner of Northridge Pharmacy.

Nearby residents, including seven members of a townhouse complex next to the site, said they feared an increase in traffic and noise will lower property values and spoil the quiet character of the neighborhood.

"I do not believe that this is going to be a strip mall," said Victoria Feinberg, a CSUN professor who received tepid applause as the sole speaker to support the development. "I think this can have a very positive result for the community."

The hearing was a precursor to an environmental impact report to be written by Environmental Science Associates. Wendy Lockwood, director of the Los Angeles firm, said a draft of the document should be ready by the end of the year and that the final report will be available in spring or summer.

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