A developer is proposing to build a 124-room Marriott Residence Inn and a Planet Fitness health club as part of an 8.23-acre shopping center project at Lassen Street and Mason Avenue in Chatsworth.
Currently, the corner lot is home to a strip mall with a Muay Thai boxing gym, auto repair shop, liquor store, doughnut shop, restaurants and other businesses.
Some of the existing buildings, including the auto shop and a single-family home, would be razed to make way for the proposed project, dubbed “The Gateway.”
The developer, HRI Development, plans to keep some of the structures, including the midcentury era exterior of one of the more prominent buildings.
That building is the former home of a Safeway supermarket that opened in the 1950s and was later converted into a warehouse and office space for Hercules Distribution Ltd. It has historical value, said Hamo Rostamian, president of the Pasadena-based development firm.
“The one particular building we were excited about keeping is the former Safeway, which is known as the Hercules building because the gentleman who owned the property used to warehouse and sell Hercules-brand typewriters and business equipment,” he said.
A Planet Fitness gym, measuring nearly 20,000 square feet, is slated to go into the old supermarket building, Rostamian said.
Most of the planned buildings would be single-story, but the proposed 20,000-square-foot Marriott Residence Inn on the northeast side of the lot on Lassen Street would rise to four stories, Rostamian said.
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The hotel is expected to cater to business people and those coming to Chatsworth for weekend church events, he said.
Leases also have been signed for a Starbucks coffee shop and a Jack in the Box restaurant, he said. The developers are negotiating a lease on another restaurant that has not yet been announced, he added.
The developer also is proposing to add landscaping to the mostly concrete lot, including shrubs, vines and 191 trees. The project calls for 411 parking spaces and 30 spots for bicycles.
Rostamian said if the city approves the plan, HRI Development hopes to begin construction soon after and complete work by the end of 2018.
The city Planning Commission is slated to review the project Thursday.
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The project is expected to have the support of the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council, which advises the city on local issues such as development projects.
Andre van der Valk, the president of the neighborhood council, said the board previously backed a project to put a Kaiser Permanente medical center at the corner, but the developer backed out. The shopping center has been in need of a “revamp” for some time, he said.
“It wasn’t an attractive corner,” he said, adding that it’s “anchored by an old service station building” and a vehicle storage area.
The latest project is appealing to the neighborhood council board members, many of whom liked the plans for the hotel, drive-thru Starbucks and Jack in the Box, he said.
The board’s initial concerns about traffic were allayed when it concluded the business-leaning hotel would not generate much congestion and would serve the local area, he said.
“There’s a lot of industry that is in that neighborhood that would benefit from having a hotel and obviously a Starbucks,” he said.
The project would nevertheless displace several businesses, including the boxing gym and LA’s Auto Repair, which has operated at the corner for more than a decade.
Leo Barajas, who works at the auto shop, said it won’t be easy to find a comparable location nearby with similar rent and the same amount of space, but they likely will “have no choice” in the matter.
“The property belongs to someone else,” he said. “Once they vote, and say OK, we do have to move out, whether we want to or not.”
They also have many regular customers in the neighborhood who they have gotten to know well, he said. They would have to “start from scratch” to find new customers if the lot gets developed and they have to move, Barajas said.
“We don’t want to move too far,” he said. “We wonder how many people will follow us. Most people drop off their cars and walk back home.”