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Friday, Jun 14, 2024

The Boulevard to Benefit from New Commercial Projects

Developer BW Brody is erecting the frame on its $47 million Sherman Oaks luxury apartment complex, one of several developments that could inject life into a quiet stretch of Ventura Boulevard. The Spanish Colonial mixed-use project, located near the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Hazeltine Avenue, is slated to open early next year. Plans call for 113 residential units and 16,500 square feet of ground-level retail, including upscale restaurants with patio areas. “We are hoping this is going to reinvigorate this stretch of Ventura” from Woodman Avenue to Van Nuys Boulevard, said Greg Brody, managing partner of the Sherman Oaks-based BW Brody Affiliated Companies. Well-known Valley restaurants Rive Gauche Cafe and Café Bizou are located across the street to the east, but the neighborhood lacks the hip vibe of nearby Studio City. Brody’s project is just one of several new developments set for Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, which some say may help the area draw more pedestrians and drive economic activity. As early as April, Ralphs plans to demolish its aging nearby store located at 14049 Ventura Boulevard, Brody said. In its place, the company will build a 65,500-square-foot Fresh Fare market, equipped with sushi stations and other upscale offerings. A Ralphs spokeswoman did not return several calls seeking comment on the timing of the groundbreaking. According to a Ralphs website promoting the development, the grocery giant is investing more than $2 million to widen Ventura Boulevard and other streets as well as improve landscaping around the store. Sherman Oaks residents often passed over their old neighborhood Ralphs, choosing instead to travel to fancier grocery markets in Studio City and Encino, which siphoned pedestrian foot traffic out of the neighborhood, said Jill Banks Barad, president of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. “Now they will come back to where they live,” she said. Several blocks to the west, the eclectic shopping district known as the Village at Sherman Oaks is also due for some change. In recent years, the Village has lost popular retailers, including Borders, Tilly’s and aahs!! — further hampering its once vaulted status as the shopping hub of the Valley. This month, T.J. Maxx is set to open a 24,184-square-foot-store in the former Borders location. And in the next 90 days, developer Max Netty plans to break ground on a rehab of a Ventura Boulevard building in the heart of the Village, which will include 16,000 square feet of retail space, said Senior Vice President Steve Weiss of NAI Capital Inc., who is handling leasing for the project. Already, Panera Bread has signed a 10-year lease at the project, said Tony Pann, owner of Tony Pann Inc., a site location specialist. “The building is going to look beautiful. They are redoing the whole store front,” said Pann, who represented Panera in the lease. The combination of new developments stand to help the mom-and-pop retail district that last saw its heyday some 20 years ago, President Todd Nathanson of illi Commercial said. “It will be a strong shot in the arm that is definitely needed,” Nathanson said. But some say reinvigorating the Boulevard will be tough. Neighborhood groups and city zoning laws often strangle new development, said Principal Craig Stevens of Lee & Associates LA North/Ventura Inc., who for a short time co-owned the Brody property. Furthermore, Stevens said, shoppers prefer to make one trip to a mall or superstore, instead of frequenting the numerous mom-and-pop shops lining the Valley’s famous thoroughfare. “They won’t make five stops on the Boulevard,” he said. Struggles continue In the fourth quarter last year, the vacancy rate for retail space in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Boulevard stood at 8 percent, compared to 3.9 percent a year earlier, according to Colliers International. Overall, Sherman Oaks retail saw a vacancy rate of 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter. In 2009, BW Brody purchased the 1.73-acre parcel at 14141 Ventura Blvd. for $6.3 million from Bank of America. The lot has seen its share of owners through the years, including the now-defunct John Laing Homes, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009. For nearly six decades, the lot was home to Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant, a Valley institution now located in Valley Glen. And the parcel was among real estate mogul Joseph Pertusati’s vast holdings that he donated to the University of Southern California. Now, Brody hopes to begin luring in young professionals and restaurateurs early next year. He plans to attract young adults in the technology and entertainment fields to the studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Rents will be about $1,800 for the one-bedroom units and the mid-$2,000 range for the two-bedroom units. A vacancy rate of less than 4 percent for nearby upscale apartments bodes well for filling the 113 units, Brody said. The new community will have several landscaped courtyards with water features, two roof top terraces, including one with a pool, and a fitness center. The apartments — which are set back from the retail — are to be equipped with stainless steel appliances, washers and dryers and large balconies and patios. President Matthew May of May Realty Advisors, who is handling retail leases at the Brody project, said he’s in conversations with several upscale Westside eateries that are looking to expand into the Valley, but declined to reveal which ones. Rents on the retail spaces, he said, are expected to range from $4-$4.50 per square foot per month. Average asking rents on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks were $2.79 in the fourth quarter of 2011. “We are establishing some new basis for rental rates in the Valley, saying ‘If you build the right project the tenants will pay,’” May said.

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