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Newhall business owners want plants before books

Debate over which improvement brings most benefit

Posted: July 9, 2008 2:03 a.m.
Updated: September 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 

It's a battle of books versus trees when it comes to guessing what will bring the biggest benefits to aging downtown Newhall.

The city's plans to bring a new library to the north end of Main Street are moving swiftly ahead since planners say the library will be an anchor for a spiffed-up downtown. But business owners say it's the street landscaping - or streetscaping - that will bring shoppers to the struggling area and that project should be bumped to the top of the city's priority list instead.

"I don't think they're going to come to just look at plants," City Manager Ken Pulskamp said at the Newhall Redevelopment Committee meeting Monday night. "If you look at the Valencia Library, that library is packed."

But committee member Kevin Korenthal said the shade trees would help lure shoppers into the stores.
"The current condition of the Main Street section is so uncomfortable, especially in the afternoons, that it doesn't draw people in," Korenthal said. "I can respect having a library, but I haven't been to a library in 20 years."

Business owners also said the library is listed as a lower priority in the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan and said they want the city to reroute library funds to pay for the all of the streetscaping. City officials said they would rather wait and make the developer pay for it.

The library and streetscaping is part of the long-term effort to redevelop plan that calls for new housing, entertainment and retail stores on Main Street. The city has already rerouted busy traffic to nearby Railroad Avenue and changed the street names to give the area a more pedestrian-friendly, small town feel.

The streetscaping will include trees, shrubs, benches, old-fashioned lampposts, bicycle racks, decorative hitching posts and signs telling the stories of Newhall's early film history.

City planners want to begin the streetscaping in January and will initially only do one pilot block. Community Development Director Paul Brotzman said if the price is right, the city might also bring streetscaping to a second block.

Crews will first bring in a storm drain that will extend from Lyons Avenue to 5th Street and then landscape the block between Market Street and 6th Street, a process planners expect will take three months.

The remaining blocks along Main Street will have to wait until developers come in and pay for the streetscaping on their block. A few developers have plans in the works, but it could take years before they bring in the streetscaping.

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