SPOTLIGHT ON ALTADENA
After Fits and Starts, Fresh Run At Rebuilding Foothill Corridor
By MICHAEL THURESSON
For years, the absence of a large supermarket has symbolized the blight hanging over the southwest corner of Altadena and bordering neighborhoods in northwest Pasadena. A redevelopment effort launched 17 years ago has had mixed results, with periods of activity followed by setbacks.
Now, positive momentum is in evidence again. County officials are in final negotiations with a developer that would bring the long-promised market to Lincoln Avenue, at the corner of Woodbury Road.
“The community has wanted the supermarket since the late 1970s, and it is crucial to the future development plans,” said Corde D. Carrillo, director of the economic/redevelopment division of L.A. County’s Community Development Commission.
In February, a design submitted by Northwest Pasadena Development Corp. was selected from seven entries for an eight-acre first phase that would include the supermarket, along with retail stores, office and residential buildings.
The CDC will make a final decision by the end of the month on the financial requirements. Pending final agreement on terms, construction could begin this summer, Carrillo said.
Whether the project can attract a major supermarket operator is a big question. Calls to Northwest were not returned.
There are other signs of activity. A nearby collection of run-down buildings has been earmarked for an industrial park. The buildings, which sit at the far west end of the redevelopment area, include a motel that had been the scene of frequent police calls and which is now boarded up.
“For years it was problematic. There was a fifty-fifty chance you’d find a stolen car in the parking lot,” said Lieutenant Ken Talianko at the Altadena station of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The county is now negotiating to purchase the buildings, said Carrillo, who expects financing to be in place by the end of the month. Grant Follis, a local property owner, and The Clifford Cos., a Newport Beach-based commercial developer, are expected to develop a 99,000-square-foot light industrial complex.
Local business owners welcome these tentative efforts, most notably the supermarket, though past false starts leave them wary.
The redevelopment area received its first state funding in 1986, but poorly design projects caused the effort to fail. Then the local real estate market went bust, so redevelopment plans were stifled throughout most of the 1990s.
There also has been bad luck. A Lucky’s grocery store was set to be built on the corner of Lincoln and Woodbury (where the proposed market is to be situated) but those plans were cancelled when Albertsons Inc. acquired the chain in 1999.
The biggest success thus far is the Technology Business Center, built in 1998 with $5 million in county, state and federal funding. It has attracted several dozen start-up ventures, mostly spin-offs from nearby California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Craic Technologies provides forensics services to the Secret Service, and TLC Watch an offshoot of JPL provides digital video surveillance for the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. TLC Watch has recently bid to provide its system to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The technology facility offers a free consulting service and conference room facilities to community businesses. But the services, which cater to high-tech businesses, aren’t seen as meeting the needs of local businesses.
“My understanding was that the tech center was going to help small businesses, but I just haven’t seen that benefit yet,” said Randy Jones, who owns a music school on Lincoln Avenue, across the street from the center.
Redevelopment officials remain hopeful that the center can be the foundation for additional investment. Indeed, revenue from technology licensed out of center will make its way back into later projects now on the drawing board.
Eventually, there are plans to redevelop 80 acres; about 40 percent of that is now in place. Further plans include the county’s purchase of run-down buildings across Lincoln from the technology business center, with a next phase of offices, apartments and retail stores.
But these efforts require new funding and developer interest. Later phases of the supermarket project depnd on tax proceeds from its initial phase, in addition to federal funds and royalties the county receives from technology licensed from the business center.