While other neighborhoods battle to keep out unwanted stores, North Hills residents welcomed with open arms a new retail center containing a Starbucks, a clothing store, a drugstore and more than a dozen other businesses. The $20 million Paseo Sepulveda will cater to a clientele that is predominantly Latino in a community that got its last new retail development 12 years ago and has never had a centrally located multistore shopping center, officials said. “For myself, I’m very happy,” shopper Maria Herrera, 42, said in Spanish at the center’s opening Saturday. “If not (for the center), I’d have to go far to buy things for my kids. I found everything here.” Located at Nordhoff Street and Sepulveda Boulevard, the 73,000-square-foot center contains 17 shops, stores and restaurants, including a Walgreens, Panda Express and a Magic Johnson’s Starbucks Coffee. Depending on what residents and city officials want, Snyder said, funding can can come from a number of sources, including community redevelopment funds, like a shopping center deal Primestor signed with the city of Bell Gardens. The North Hills center was built without any city financial help, Snyder said. “There was a lot of interest (from retailers) to be in this community,” he said. Padilla said the shopping center is a sign of changes in North Hills, which for years was regarded as a location for gangs and drug deals. “This is the new North Hills,” Padilla said. “This is a renaissance.” Why has it taken so long to get retailers to commit to the area? “A lot of people have a perception on how Latinos are,” Snyder said. “I’m from Mexico. These are the people I identify with and feel comfortable with.” Primestor’s Gene Detchemendy said North Hills never drew major retailers because it started as an industrial area. “It’s the next step in an evolution, where people want to shop and feel good about their community,” Detchemendy said. Rick Coca, (818) 713-3634 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The businesses will employ about 150 people, about 90 percent of them from the local community, officials said. With 61,000 residents living within a one-mile radius, North Hills is one of the San Fernando Valley’s densest neighborhoods, said Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla, whose district includes the area. Developers believe that most Paseo Sepulveda customers will come from a one- or two-mile radius, with many walking to shop. “We deserve to have a store right in our community where we can go to buy clothing for our kids,” Padilla said. “It’s not complicated, but we’ve never had that here.” Primestor Development, the developer, specializes in building centers in urban areas overlooked by other developers, said Arturo Snyder, a partner in the company.