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Santa Clarita's 25th: City grows with many selling points

Posted: December 15, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Updated: December 15, 2012 4:00 a.m.
The redeveloped Main Street is seen in Newhall. The redeveloped Main Street is seen in Newhall.
The redeveloped Main Street is seen in Newhall.


Santa Clarita was once a sleepy, little valley that was residence to early settlers, orange groves, farm fields and oil drilling. But in the past few decades Santa Clarita became a desirable suburb of Los Angeles with low crime, good schools, and a quality life that allowed residents to explore outdoor living within minutes of the region’s boundaries.

As bedroom-communities sprung up throughout the area the population has nearly doubled since the city incorporated 25 years ago on Dec. 15, 1987.

In 1990, the first population count take by the U.S. Census Bureau, Santa Clarita was home to 110,643 people. By the fall of 2012, and with the most recent annexation of unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, Santa Clarita’s population of 201,341 people landed in the title spot as the third-largest city in the county.

There has been significant growth in the last 25 years in retail, commercial, and industrial space, said Dale Donohoe, president of Intertex. “It has really exploded in the past 25 years.”

But residents needed places to shop, dine and work as the city grew.

Retail growth

The historic Old Town Newhall was the Santa Clarita Valley’s original downtown shopping district.

A lot of the space along Soledad Canyon Road was built in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, said Jim Backer, founder of JSB Development.

Before the area officially became a city, the commercial retail space along Lyons Avenue in Newhall; Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country; and the Kmart center on Bouquet Canyon Road and Valencia Boulevard was built – much of it by outside developers.

“Orchard Village was one of the earliest shopping centers we built,” said Marlee Lauffer, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Newhall Land, the company which developed and built the first master plan community in Valencia.

But, there was a need to build a larger shopping center to show retailers that there was a potential market here, Lauffer said.

So, in 1985 Newhall Land built the River Oaks Center on Magic Mountain Parkway. It housed anchor tenants Target and Mervyns when it first opened, she said.

“The sales figures from Target and Mervyns allowed us to show retailers there was a strong demand for retailers here,” Lauffer said.

As a result, Newhall Land built the Valencia Town Center. The developer broke ground on the mall in 1990 after it got a commitment from three department stores to anchor the mall – Sears, J.C. Penny and Robinsons-May; the latter later acquired by Macy’s, she said.

Newhall Land opened the mall in 1992, she said. And the company started Town Center Drive right after that.

“The mall took off and then the other shopping centers took off,” Backer said.

As for attracting major retailers to the east side of town, that has been a more difficult task, said Donohoe, who has lived in Canyon Country since 1962. There are issues with topography and income levels. And there isn’t a major concentration of homes

“We need a major business park over here that would bring jobs,” he said. “Then people would want to live by it, shop by it, and go eat by it. Right now it’s just a bedroom community.”

That was an issue on the Westside of town as well until many of the commercial office space buildings were built, and industrial space was added.

Industrial space

“By 1987 we had 5.5 million square feet of space,” Backer said. “We have 10 million square feet or more today. And there’s more to come when projects are fully built out.”

The Valencia Industrial Center was built in the 60s when the San Fernando Valley was still extremely desirable for businesses, Lauffer said.

But as Santa Clarita became more built out, Newhall Land began to see an influx of companies moving into the area, she said. The quality of life and ability to go shopping locally made it easier to attract businesses.

The company also built the Valencia Commerce Center, beginning in the early 90s, she said. The first tenant there was the regional processing center for the U.S. Postal Service.

“Job growth starts slowly at first,” Lauffer said. “But once we got a core concentration of industries, there was significant job growth and synergy in Santa Clarita.”

As retail and industrial space was growing in the past 25 years, there was also an expanded need for a full-service hotel in the city.


The Newhall Land company built the first full-service hotel in Santa Clarita.

Opening in 1998, the Hyatt Regency Valencia hotel was the first full-service hotel and conference center in the city, and it was a very big deal to get it, Lauffer said. The city of Santa Clarita also contributed money to help expand the conference room, she said.

The presence of a full-service hotel allowed the city to develop its tourism program, attract business and for organizations to hold conferences.

The city has outgrown the conference space at the Hyatt, however. And reviewing options for building a larger conference center are in the initial stages.

“One of the real hallmarks of the city of Santa Clarita is that they do a fantastic job providing services,” Lauffer said. “All of that is important to attracting businesses.”


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