LANCASTER – Mayor Frank Roberts expects that his city this year will see major gains in retail development and job creation and a renewed focus on fighting crime. Roberts, who will complete his fifth and final term as mayor in April, said the city’s anti-crime efforts will focus on crime related to government-subsidized rental housing, the so-called federal Section 8 program that helps low-income families pay their rent. “One of the concerns we get loud and clear is the Section 8 housing,” Roberts said. “We’re going to have to focus on that.” The Lancaster Community Appreciation Project, started in 2004 to police apartment complexes and other rental units, is starting to show results and might be expanded, Roberts said. The program, called LAN-CAP, involves eight deputies. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson The program costs roughly $1.3 million, of which about one-fourth is funded by a rental license fee of $65 a year for landlords who own at least two rental units, plus $25 for each additional unit. Rental units account for about 30 percent of the city’s housing stock, but they account for two-thirds of the calls for service for deputies. Roberts said the city will also look to help promote a proposal to create a sheriff’s academy at Antelope Valley College. The proposal is aimed at helping the Sheriff’s Department address a personnel shortage of some 1,000 deputies throughout Los Angeles County. County officials say the department is having a hard time hiring and training new deputies as fast as veterans retire or transfer to other departments. In terms of retail development, Roberts predicted that residents will see dramatic growth in the next few years. Roberts said the build-up of businesses along Palmdale’s 10th Street West corridor will push chains to look further north. “You’ll see a build-out along the freeway,” Roberts said. “There will be hotels arriving on the scene that will stimulate retail and restaurant growth around them.” A $25 million makeover of the Valley Central shopping center, in the works for five years, will be in full swing in 2006. The renovation essentially replaces three big buildings – a former Costco, a former House2Home and the present Wal-Mart – and some smaller stores with one giant building – a Super Wal-Mart – and some smaller stores. The former Costco and House2Home stores have been demolished and construction soon will begin on the Wal-Mart store. Once the Wal-Mart Supercenter is open, the current Wal-Mart building will be torn down and replaced with smaller stores. Pads along Valley Central Way will be built to accommodate either smaller stores or restaurants. In terms of job creation, much of the attention will be focused on the development of the Fox Field Corridor, the area between Fox Field Airport and the Antelope Valley Freeway, Roberts said. The area is slated for industrial and commercial development. Among the projects in the corridor that will spur job growth are the establishment of a distribution center by SYGMA Network Inc., a restaurant supply company. The center, estimated to cost $15 million, will be ramping up its employment in 2006 to about 350 workers. The corridor will also see development of the Fox Field Business Park, a $24 million project by the commercial arm of home-building giant Larwin Co. The business park will eventually have 24 buildings with a total floor space of 220,000 square feet. Roberts said he hopes work will start soon on the 62-acre Whit Carter Park at Sierra Highway and Avenue H-8. The park, projected to cost about $8 million, will be built in phases, and is expected eventually to include baseball fields, picnic areas and tennis courts. City officials envision the park being the anchor of a revitalization project they have dubbed Northeast Gateway Corridors Vision Plan. The plan is aimed at improving the area bordered roughly by 10th Street West, West Avenue H-8, Challenger Way and Avenue I. Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!