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Area Given Status as 'Main Street'

October 21, 2000|RICHARD FAUSSET

Taking note of the muffler shop, adult video store and dry cleaners across the street, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Laura Chick conceded that this stretch of Sherman Way wasn't exactly the Rue de la Paix.

However, that didn't stop her from taking aside a couple of men she called "developer types" Friday afternoon to persuade them to consider opening a cafe with street seating.

"You've got to close your eyes and dream and imagine," she said. "And I've been in sidewalk cafes in other countries where there's not necessarily anything good to look at."

Since sustaining major damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Canoga Park has actually been spruced up quite a bit, with $13 million in local, state and federal funds going toward street-scaping, pedestrian-friendly touches, and commercial facade improvement programs, according to Chick's office.

Business owners say Sherman Way, the area's main retail corridor, still has a long way to go, and they joined Chick and California First Lady Sharon Davis on Friday to celebrate the inauguration of a key component in their revitalization plans: the bestowing of "California Main Street" status on the neighborhood.

Thus far, the main players in Canoga Park's bid for urban renewal and pedestrian-friendliness have been the Chamber of Commerce and the Canoga Park Business Improvement District, a self-assessing group that puts its money into various projects for the area.

Main Street, a nationwide nonprofit program dedicated to restoring urban centers, will not provide funding directly. Rather, it will help find grants and offer technical assistance to Canoga Park. One of Main Street's goals will be to find a way to develop the area's retail specialties--Latino enterprises, natural food and health services, antiques shops and the arts--into a unified and easily marketable package, said Leslie Lambert, executive director of the local Main Street chapter.

Paul Lewin, owner of Follow Your Heart natural foods restaurant and the local Main Street's new treasurer, said with the recent initiatives, Sherman Way "looks a lot better," adding that Main Street was the last bureaucratic piece that was needed to be put in place in Canoga Park's plan.

"I don't see a lot of foot traffic yet," the business owner said. "But ask me next year."

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