Business District along Sepulveda looks to step up the area’s game in 2017

By Gary Walker

North of the Sepulveda/Lincoln split, Westchester’s downtown business district is getting more attention
Photo By Mia Duncans

Merchants on the south end of Westchester are hoping to make this a banner year, literally. The Westchester Town Center Business Improvement District will soon be unfurling a banner campaign at key intersections to draw attention to the business district as it approaches its 10th anniversary in July.

“I think banners are an eye-catching thing. Hopefully, this will make more people aware of what we’re doing on Sepulveda [Boulevard],” said John Ruhlen, a member of the BID’s board of directors.

The Westchester Town Center BID includes businesses along Sepulveda from Manchester Avenue to where Sepulveda merges with Lincoln on its way to LAX.

Ruhlen and other BID leaders are eager to highlight the principal intersection of Sepulveda and Manchester, which they see as a gateway to one of the community’s most important commercial centers.

“It’s sort of the introduction to the Westchester business district,” he said.

Westchester Town Center Executive Director Don Duckworth said BID visitors can expect new changes in 2017, including 125 units of residential living — a possible source of new shoppers.

“More residential with ground floor retail would go a long way, in my opinion, to actualizing Westchester Town Center as a bustling lifestyle-type center,” Duckworth  said. “Ayara Thai [Cuisine, on 87th Street in the Westchester Triangle] has expansion plans, as I understand it. We have a new bookstore coming onto 87th Street, which will be nice. I believe it will include a wine bar and office space.”

The business district incorporated in July 2007 with support from 80% of Westchester commercial property owners within its boundaries. Duckworth said the BID has provided numerous infrastructure enhancements to the area since its inception, including landscape lighting along Sepulveda, street sweeping, sidewalk pressure washing, trash collection, graffiti removal and homeless services coordination.

Neighborhood Council of Westchester –Playa President Cyndi Hench thinks there is much more potential for the area, particularly in light of the commercial and retail aspects of the LAX Northside Plan Update. Slated to function as an extension of the businesses district at its southern end, the plan would add 470,000 square feet of commercial, retail and restaurants adjacent to LAX.

“Some of the landlords are trying to clean things up and get good clients, while others are content to let their properties go to hell. The visual blight that is the old Grinder [at the corner of Sepulveda and Manchester, just outside the BID] is a disgrace,” she said.

“We hear cries and pleas for better shopping and dining opportunities on Sepulveda and elsewhere in Westchester, and I agree. Someday it may be so great that people complain about traffic and getting a table,” Hench continued. “It is all dependent upon who the landlord finds and signs as a tenant, the city permitting process not scaring them off, and people going to the stores and restaurants.”

Businesses in the Westchester Triangle — a block of small businesses east of Sepulveda but hidden from motorists on the main drag — could benefit from added attention through the BID. But Ruhlen thinks these merchants should also engage in more self-promotion on their own initiative.

“Those landlords have to do more. It’s so removed from the business district,” he said.

Hench said the one constant that she has heard is the BID needs sprucing up after almost a decade.

“I don’t think everyone will agree on what is needed, but the general sense of ‘an upgrade’ seems to be pretty consistent,” she said.