Large Shopping Center Gives New Outlook to City’s Retail
By CLAUDIA PESCHIUTTA
What used to be a strawberry patch is turning into a 48-acre commercial development in southeast Glendora and the road to making it happen says a lot about a city’s coming of age.
While local residents had to be appeased in shaping the development, called the Glendora Marketplace, there was the recognition around town that after years of seeing sales tax dollars go to surrounding communities, the time had come to welcome a retail project.
“I think the folks who were opposed to it are recognizing that it’s turned out to be a good thing for the city,” said Brad Miller, deputy public works director and an assistant city engineer. “If they were having problems, I know I would be hearing from them.”
The first retailer, The Home Depot, opened its doors in May 2001, followed by Sam’s Club and several restaurants, including Coco’s Bakery Restaurant and Wendy’s. They’re attracting locals and residents from surrounding areas and have created hundreds of new jobs in this northeast San Gabriel Valley community.
Glendora is 30 miles from downtown L.A. but feels even further away. Once known for its citrus groves, Glendora has seen a lot of development over the years but retains a small-town feel. It’s home to spacious, one-story homes and large, green lawns.
This city of more than 50,000 residents is surrounded by Azusa, Covina and San Dimas. Citrus College is located there, as is the headquarters of the National Hot Rod Association.
Along Route 66
Beyond the Marketplace, most commercial activity is concentrated along Grand Avenue and Route 66, formerly known as Alosta Avenue. There are several quaint shops and restaurants in the downtown village, a two-block strip on Glendora Avenue, between Foothill Boulevard and Bennett Avenue.
The Marketplace site is at the intersection of Lone Hill Avenue and Gladstone Street, just west of the Glendora Auto Centre, a collection of car dealerships and a Wal-Mart store. To the west are 38 acres of dirt and weeds owned by Kaiser Permanente, which purchased the site for a hospital project that never got off the ground.
North of Home Depot and Sam’s Club is a dirt lot, where a Hyundai car dealership is expected to open by late summer and a Kohl’s department store by March 2003. Another auto dealership will help fill out the rest of the parcel.
Once completed, the $60 million Marketplace project is expected to generate $2 million a year in sales tax revenue. That would be a significant boost for Glendora, which will bring in a total of $5.5 million in sales tax revenue in the 2001-02 fiscal year, ending June 30.
“We’re very deficient in sales tax. I mean we’re way below our neighbors,” Miller said. “Eighty percent of our tax-generating dollars were going out of the city.”
Except for Wal-Mart and the auto dealers, Glendora had been devoid of any large retail complex until the Marketplace.
In 1998, Koenig Cos., one of the project’s two developers, and Home Depot Inc. purchased the site for $12.8 million. But community activists opposed the project.
With the Glendora City Council evenly split on the Marketplace project (one of the five members excused himself from voting due to a conflict of interest), the decision was put to residents in the March 2000 election.
“The citizens got all in an uproar and divided,” said Mildred “Skeeter” Kobzeff, who has spent most of her life in Glendora. While some residents, like her, were in favor of the project, others wanted the site used for a golf course or a park. Opponents worried that the project would bring more traffic, pollution and noise to the area and that the center’s lights might create too much glare for nearby residents.
But voters approved Measure D by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, giving developers the green light. Mayor John Harrold and councilmen Richard Jacobs and Paul Marshall, who opposed the Marketplace plan, were ousted in a recall election earlier this year.
Koenig Cos. has sold off most of the lots and others are in escrow.
“It’ll be a profitable venture,” said John Koenig, president of the Laguna Beach-based development firm. He declined to discuss specific financial information.
The developers included several mitigation measures in the plan to address concerns about the project. For example, delivery truck traffic was restricted to Lone Hill, which runs through a commercial area. Such efforts have appeased some opponents.
Jacobs, one of the recalled councilmen, said he opposed the Marketplace because he didn’t want Glendora “to be urbanized.” The retired university professor, who taught environmental studies, believes large apartment complexes and big-box stores are the “death knell of a suburb.”
While displeased with the way the site was developed, Jacobs admits to shopping at the Marketplace. “You have to be a political realist and move on,” he said. But he fears that Home Depot and Sam’s Club might one day decide to leave Glendora, sticking the city with “all these empty big boxes.”