2017-07-14 / Front Page

Mixed-use ‘village’ one step closer to approval

Four-story hotel would anchor site
By Melissa Simon

ALL IN ONE—Los Angeles-based Rising Realty Partners is seeking to build a mixed-use “village” containing apartments, shops, offices and a hotel on the 43.5-acre property at 400 National Way. The proposal is set to go before the planning commission July 26. Courtesy of Rising Realty and Johnson Fain ALL IN ONE—Los Angeles-based Rising Realty Partners is seeking to build a mixed-use “village” containing apartments, shops, offices and a hotel on the 43.5-acre property at 400 National Way. The proposal is set to go before the planning commission July 26. Courtesy of Rising Realty and Johnson Fain A plan to build a mixed-use “village” with shops, apartments, offices and a hotel in the western end of Simi Valley is headed to the planning commission July 26 for its next round of city approvals.

Los Angeles-based real estate firm Rising Realty Partners is seeking to transform the 43.5- acre lot at 400 National Way, where a former Bank of America building now sits vacant. The plan calls for a four-story hotel with up to 125 rooms and a 400-person conference center, 190 apartments, and up to 70,000 square feet of flex office/condominium or commercial space.

Bill Fain, partner and director of urban planning for Los Angeles architecture Johnson Fain, made a presentation July 6 to Simi Valley's Neighborhood Council No. 1, which acts as an advisory board to the planning commission and City Council.

“We’re taking a single-use site and making it into a multi-use,” he told the board. “It’s essentially a small urban village that offers something new and interesting to the community.”

Developers aim to create a “civilly minded” atmosphere with plazas, open spaces and paseo walkways that connect the different areas of the site, he said.

Despite voicing some concerns about filling the office and commercial space, the neighborhood council unanimously agreed last week to recommend the project for approval.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea and . . . I’d like to see it evolve, which I’m sure it will as it gets some legs,” board member Dennis Lea said at the meeting.

If the project gets the planning commission’s approval later this month, it will go to the City Council for final consideration in August.

‘Just the reality’

During the public comment portion of the July 6 meeting, one woman asked developers whether they planned to have a bus stop on-site and how many units would be affordable or handicap-accessible.

“You have to think of the future because the baby boomers aren’t getting any younger,” she said. “We’re old and vital now, but in 10 years we’re going to creak a lot more and will need more handicap-accessible units to live in. It’s just the reality.”

David Herbst, spokesman for Vectis Strategies, which is the community outreach firm for the project, said the village would have both a bus stop and handicap accessible units, although he could not confirm how many.

As for the affordable housing component, the developer has the option to either designate about 25 percent of the 190 units as affordable or opt out by paying an in-lieu fee to the city, Herbst told the Simi Valley Acorn.

“We’re asking the city for flexibility to either build the affordable units or pay the in-lieu fee so that when we get to construction, we can decide at that time what we’re going to do,” Herbst said.

New-use challenge

Built in 1983, the existing 290,000-square-foot building at National Way once housed a call center for Bank of America.

The property has been vacant since 2013, when Rising Realty acquired it, along with nine other former BofA locations. Fain said the firm initially intended to remarket the Simi Valley building as a call center, but the need to retrofit the building would have been costly.

“The challenge we had was to find a new use or a combination of uses that would be suitable for the area and make it an exciting place,” the architect said at the July 6 meeting. “One of the things we’re running into in planning large urban areas or pieces of cities today is that people are getting more accustomed to mixed-use environments, similar to what you see in places like downtown L.A. or the Arts District.”

Nelson Rising, chairman/ CEO of Rising Realty, said his firm looked at uses that would be economically viable and “environmentally and aesthetically pleasing. “We’ve tried to mix uses in a way that people are able to park their car on a Friday night and won’t have to get back in it until Monday because they’ll have everything they need in one place.”

If all goes as planned, Rising Realty hopes to have the City Council’s approval by Labor Day, with construction set to begin shortly thereafter. Completion is expected within two years.

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