Video History of Valley and Laurel Plazas, Part 1: Empty, Forgotten, Abandoned

Patch explores how an economic hub became "an economic black hole."

This is Part One of a five-part video documentary series on the history of Valley Plaza and Laurel Plaza in North Hollywood. Here are links to the other four parts:

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five


Back in November, North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch broke the news that a $333-million renovation of Laurel and Valley plazas was on hold. Then, on April 14, developer J.H. Snyder announced it had entirely and sold its Valley Plaza land holdings back to IStar, a New York-based commercial lender.

With the death of yet another redevelopment plan of the area, which has been devastated ever since the 1994 Northridge earthquake, North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch decided to investigate the history of the mall in an effort to better understand what the Laurel and Valley plazas were, what they are and what they could be.

Special thanks to Sam Shakerchi, administrator of the Facebook page I Used to Hang Out at at Laurel Plaza Ice Capades Chalet Public Skating Rink for giving permission to use photos from the site.

For more information on the history of the malls, check out Sirnya Tritipeskul's Web site at http://www.deadmalls.com/malls/valley_plaza.html and at http://stritipeskul.bol.ucla.edu/HOME.html.

Jonah Fitzsimmons May 12, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Great reporting. I like knowing about the history of the area I live in. This is one of those "seem-to-be" (but really are not) forgotten corners of North Hollywood that desperately need a helping hand with true long range entrepreneurial spirit and vision. Woodland Hills has its shopping center, Burbank has theirs, and there is nothing comparable in size, in between. People, that's a shame. North Hollywood alone (including Toluca Lake and Valley Village) is nearly 185,000 people, not including our surrounding areas like Sun Valley to the immediate North and Van Nuys to the west that are also lacking retail hubs of what this area could be again. This is the best central location for another Grove LA, or Americana at Brand (in Glendale). A great opportunity for the right visionary who truly wants to serve the San Fernando Valley.
LABornAndRaised May 12, 2011 at 05:08 PM
What a well done and thought out presentation on Valley and Laurel Plaza. I love seeing the vintage photos of the mall before the Northridge Earthquake took down half of it. With so much red tape, the city needs to see its full potential and get this thing developed.
Tiffany Kelly May 12, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Amazing, Craig.
Dominique Zoida May 12, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Great article/video!
Joe Goodman May 12, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Loving this Craig. Great job in bringing up an important major issue that has been sinking in to the background. Love the historical photos too.,
Hugh Lipton May 12, 2011 at 11:37 PM
A wonderful story of what once was. I lived in Studio City when they opened and shopping their was a real treat for us kids who were 8 to 10 years old. This was high end living for us. And I remember they decorated at Christmas. When I went in to my late teens and could drive this is where I went to do my shopping and could literally buy everything I needed for the holidays in 30 minutes. and can you imagine? They actually wrapped individual items for you right thee at the counter. I look forward to the continuing segments.
Craig Clough (Editor) May 13, 2011 at 04:05 AM
Thank you all for the nice comments, this was probably the most extensive project I have worked on since launching the site, and it's not even done yet! Look for Part 2 next week ...
Jack McGrath May 13, 2011 at 04:50 AM
A big part of east valley history. It was something very special for lots of people- young and old. From Sears to May Co. to Macys to all the Mom and Pop retailers. Now it is boarded up, except a sex joint called the "Gentlemen's Club". Where were our elected officials? Where was our Mayor, where was the CRA? Obviously, they all could care less about our east valley community. This should have been stopped cold, and transferred to a development company that can get the job done.Based of this big mess, I toatally agree with Gov. Jerry Brown- get rid of this non performing project, and abolish all CRA agencies in the state of CA. Nothing but a big city grease job. My hat is off to Craig Clough- a very incisive look at our failed city policies.
Teri Markson May 13, 2011 at 06:03 PM
When I bought a house in North Hollywood two years ago there was a lot of talk about resuscitating the Laurel Plaza/Valley Plaza area which was very exciting. I understand that the recession has taken its toll on large renewal projects, but now that the NoHo Arts District seems to be getting back on its feet it would be nice if the same could happen for the Plazas. I moved to NoHo from Culver City which has just undergone an enormous transformation. Where are the folks who had the vision to redo the Fox Hills Mall and downtown CC? The East Valley needs some love!
Steve Devol May 13, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Very well done. Looking forward to next installment
David Rivers May 13, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Good point Teri. A Westfield developer (who owns Fox Hills mall and Topanga Mall, etc) would do wonders for the Valley/Laurel Plazas. I wonder if the city or CRA has reached out to them to bid on this project. I'm sorry, but I don't think Snyder has the vision for commercial retail like Westfield. Snyder is more residential in his developments.
Jack McGrath May 13, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Mr. Markson: We need a smart developer to finish this project. I sent a note to Rick Caruso, the creator of the Grove and Americaner. It he becomes a candidate for Mayor, he could show his committment to the eeast San Fernando Valley by putting the retailers back in business. There was the Lamplighter Restaurant, which was a going business before the project threw them out. If I receive any note from Mr. Caruso, I will post it on the Patch. This non development needs to be fixed- now- no more excuses from the CRA.
teresa mcgrath May 13, 2011 at 08:43 PM
great piece on the laurel plaza. may co, sears, sees candies, and the shoe stores offer up many memories. it's sad the area continues to be dormant after the '94 quake. what a waste. the vintage l.a. photos were a treasure, and captured the thriving downdown scene. enjoyed the ice capades chalet photos too. thx
Evan Atkinson May 13, 2011 at 11:22 PM
Congratulations Craig on a stellar reporting piece of Valley history. Hopefully, that's not all it will be.
david greenwald May 16, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Wow... this is so sad to see this. I grew up about 1.5 miles from the Valley Plaza and spent most of childhood (late 50's/early 60's) hanging around and doing things there and around there. The ice skating rink was so awesome ad fun. I have very fond memories of that place and the attached mall there. It gave us kids someplace to go to both keep us out of as well as a place to get into trouble... and we did too. :-) I hope one day they can revitalize the area but regardless, it's an interesting piece, you did a great job on this, thanks/congrats. I'm interested to se Part 2 when it is released.
Craig Clough (Editor) May 19, 2011 at 06:00 PM
Part 2 of this story has been delayed slightly but look for it Monday as I am completing some key interviews this week.
amber May 21, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Wow Craig...I just googled this same subject trying to find out what was going on with that site. My husband and I are home owners in North Hollywood and I am also a Realtor as well, and we have really been looking forward to having a nice project go in there. It's too bad it fell through. I really, really hope that some investor sees this area and its magnificent potential and starts back some plans to put something there. I personally believe that North Hollywood is a diamond in the rough and I hope that very soon, we start to see more growth and redevelopment here. Thanks for putting that together! I look forward to seeing some more info on what is going on here.
Craig Clough (Editor) May 21, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Thanks Amber. I filmed an interview with Councilman Krekorian on Friday at the plaza and have an interview scheduled with a CRA representative on Monday morning, so look for part two early next week.
Peter V May 24, 2011 at 02:12 AM
A fine article. Im a 24 yr resident/homeowner in Valley Plaza. Ive seen CRA money leave the area over the years and find its way into NoHo, Canoga Park and even Pacoima. Why hasnt any city offical been able to bring stores, restaurants and shops into this area?The shopping we did have was demolished for a mid school on Laurel Canyon. Unemployment is low here and while per capita income isnt as high as its neighbors we do have a tax base going on here. We are tired of having to shop,dine and spend our dollars in Burbank and Glendale.
John Mitchell June 06, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Great video, but, The Laurel Plaza was built years after the May Company. It was an after thought. It didn't have the first or only ice rink. There was an ice rink at the Valley Garden on Vineland in Sun Valley across from the airport and Pickwick had an ice rink for many years on Riverside Drive in Burbank.
Karen Symonds June 29, 2011 at 03:41 AM
I learned how to drive in the May Co/Macy parking lot. I went to grammar school just a few blocks away from the May Co and would often hang out with other kids near the store . Most of my childhood memories have to do with Laurel Plaza, going to Currie's for ice cream, shopping at Leed's for shoes, listening to records at Woolworth's and getting my hair cut at Leader's, an inexpensive hair salon. It is a tragedy to see this vibrant shopping center become desolate and decayed. In an ironic twist, I married one of the Symond's brothers, a son to the original developer Bob Symonds forty years later and have watched with sadness the death of Valley Plaza. Thanks for the article. Karen Ross Symonds
kenneth scalir September 30, 2011 at 01:27 AM
It least there is still a $3 movie theatre at Valley Plaza, the Regency 6.
Paul Zollo October 13, 2011 at 08:58 PM
This is great, Mr. Clough. Thank you for answering so many questions about my neighborhood. This is good work - will show my family this tonight on the big screen.
Craig Clough (Editor) October 14, 2011 at 05:00 AM
Thank you, Paul. The big screen? I hope the family enjoys it as much as you did.
Bob Peppermuller August 08, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Yes I remember all the "good ol days" of shopping there. The demographics of the area has changed over the last decades so what kind of businesses could survive there? Should it be converted to some entirely different function? Tear it down as a similar mall I have seen in Toledo, OH and left barren? Sears Holding is on shaky ground. The LAUSD JHS split the northern part in half. CC Paul Kerkorian even left. Can the Wells Fargo mural be restored? Big challenges.
Doreen Mulman January 24, 2014 at 03:19 AM
These videos needed a fact-checker. I've lived between the two plazas since 1962 and in the first video alone I caught some errors, two of which really bothered me. First of all, JFK campaigned in the parking lot where Woolworth was (where the ugly middle school is now) not in front of Sears. And the fountain the other guy said was in Laurel Plaza was actually in Topanga Plaza.


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