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Proposal gives Newhall a brand new Main Street

Old-fashioned street lamps, new retail centers highlight changes.

Posted: April 19, 2008 1:28 a.m.
Updated: June 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Newhall's Main Street would look dramatically different under a proposal that the City Council will consider Tuesday.

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From street name changes to a switch in businesses, downtown Newhall is beginning to see the product of the city's plans to transform the aging area into a visitor-friendly, historic old town.

Two years from now, downtown Newhall will likely see Main Street lined with trees and old-fashioned street lamps, a traffic circle at the south end of the street, new retail centers and a new library under construction.

After 2010, the area could see itself with a new senior housing complex, a new museum, a permanent open air market and more housing units.

The city adopted the plan in 2005 that aims to revitalize downtown Newhall to draw businesses and their shoppers from all over the Santa Clarita Valley and even draw a few in from outside the area.

Over the past year, the city completed the first phase, which was to bring in angled parking spaces and change the names of the major streets to bring more on an old town feel to the area. The city also calmed traffic on Main Street by rerouting through traffic onto Railroad Avenue in preparation to bring landscaping - or "streetscaping" - to Main Street.

The plan calls for 10 blocks of the street to be lined with shade trees, street lamps, poles that emulate hitching posts, bicycle racks, creek boulders and low-lying plants. There will also be at least six "nodes," outlets in the walkway with benches and plaques sharing some of Newhall's early history.

Plans for the streetscaping will likely move forward on Tuesday, as the City Council will choose a streetscape design. Once the city is given the greenlight to move forward, work will begin on constructing a pilot block on Main Street between Market Street and 6th street.

That first block could be completed as early as spring of 2009, said Paul Brotzman, the city's director of community development. The rest of the streetscaping on Main Street would soon follow.

Installation of a storm drain on Main Street could come as early as summer, Brotzman said. The block between Market Street and Sixth Street could be finished as early as November. The city plans to hold outreach meetings with Main Street businesses prior to construction and the city may decide to hold off on the project until January so that construction does not interfere with business during the holiday season.

At the northern end of Main Street, the city is negotiating with property owners to buy up land in preparation to build a new library and retail center.

At the block where Lyons Avenue, Main Street and Spruce Street meet, the city and county are looking to build a library that would likely be between 16,000 and 30,000 square feet in size. The final size will depend on the outcome of the needs, cost and budget, Brotzman said.

Commercial buildings will likely surround the library.

The city has already purchased the property where CarQuest Auto Parts currently sits, as well as the property occupied by dog grooming business Paws for Fun. The city is in discussions with the owners of the property where Just Passing Thru Body Piercing and White Light Chiropractic Center currently operate. Those purchases are necessary to the project and would be the final purchases for the library project, Brotzman said. The current tenants will lease the buildings through the city until the city is ready to build the library.

Although some feared the historic old jailhouse might be threatened as a result of the project, Assistant City Engineer Chris Price said the jail is owned by private owner and the city is not pursuing purchasing the property. The jailhouse would be behind the library and Price said that if it is ever put up for sale, the city could buy it and emphasize its history.

"The objective is to plan and design to work around it. It's not necessary for the project," he said. "If we do acquire it, we will work it into the design."

The same thing applies for the American Legion building nearby, he said.

The city and county are currently conducting a needs assessment with the public to determine the library's size and amenities. The assessment will likely be finished in June, at which time the city hopes to award a contract for a design firm. It could take about a year to design, Brotzman said.

This summer, the city will be exploring the technical feasibility of constructing a traffic circle at the intersection of Main Street and Newhall Avenue. The traffic circle, modeled after a European roundabout, would not use any traffic lights. The city is also looking to reconstruct the front entrance to William S. Hart. Park to provide easier access on Newhall Avenue.

The city is now negotiating with Meta Housing Corporation to build a 116-unit senior housing complex between Main Street and Railroad Avenue bordered by 5th Street and 6th Street. Twenty percent of the senior housing would be affordable housing.

The company has not yet formally submitted plans, but the city has scheduled a formal meeting for May 6 to determine how much of the funding would be private and how much would be public. Construction for the housing could begin in 2010, Brotzman said.

The complex would be between three and four stories and would have a street-level retail component with 14,000 to 18,000 square feet of retail space. There would also be a parking garage with at least 300 public parking spaces and about 200 spaces for private use.

Another public parking structure is planned for the other end of Main Street, either between 8th Street and 9th Street or between 9th Street and Lyons Avenue.

In total, the new parking will bring 800 additional spaces to downtown Newhall, Brotzman said.

The city is also looking to bring in an open air "mercado" to Main Street and could eventually build a museum at the corner of Newhall Avenue and Railroad Avenue.

Plans have also been formally submitted to build a new retail center at the corner of 14th Street and Railroad Avenue. The plans show the potential to bring two new restaurants, new retail space and parking.

Brotzman said it is difficult to put a timeline on all of the downtown Newhall changes.

"It's all driven by the market and the economy and funds available," Brotzman said.

He said work will continue "until we get it done."

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