By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
A vision of a revitalized retail and residential district at Brookhurst Street and Chapman Avenue in Garden Grove was unveiled Tuesday night by members of the Urban Land Institute.
At a public meeting held at the Community Meeting Center, ULI representatives revealed the concepts they felt would help improve the community’s largest central business district, especially the shopping center at the southwest corner.
“You have an underutilized and outdated commercial center,” said Andy Hamilton of the ULI, a nonprofit organization that assists cities with land use planning. “It’s at a major intersection, and the Pacific Electric right-of-way is a barrier between the center and the existing neighborhoods in the area.”
The center, currently called Century Plaza, has been plagued by vacancies for years. Current occupants include a CVS drug store, an El Pollo Loco fast foot chicken restaurant and other tenants, but the center has struggled since the largest anchor — Vons/Pavilion supermarket closed a decade ago.
Combining research, input from various “stakeholders” (including property owners and city officials), and their own expertise, the panel suggested remaking the center with:
n mixed use development that included residential and commercial units in the same project;
n offering a mix of price ranges and unit sizes for residential units, including multigenerational families (grandparents, parents and children);
n seeking to focus part of the center for entertainment uses to take advantage of the proximity of the Regal Cinemas in The Promenade shopping center to the north;
n use the adjacent Pacific Electric right-of-way for recreational uses including tennis courts, pedestrian and bicycle paths, etc.
City Manager Matt Fertal said “I don’t think the city has done a good job in the past of making those two properties compatible. We probably should look at the whole intersection and not just plan on a piecemeal basis.”
Mayor Bill Dalton was favorably impressed in general by the concept, but echoed the concerns of some others who spoke. “We don’t want a situation where we plan on mixed use and all that gets built is the residential. That’s not good for the city.”
The location of the proposed housing units adjacent to the right-of-way could become a problem, he added, if plans to return trains to the area ever came to pass. Some landlords might have trouble renting units if there was a lot of rail noise, he said.
Originally built in the late 1950s, the center at the southwest corner was anchored by a Vons drug store, a Sav-On drug store, a Newberry’s junior department store and Zody’s discount store in its heyday in the Sixties and Seventies.
After a period of decline, the center was reborn in the late Eighties as Pavilion Plaza when the smaller Vons moved into a larger building (which Zody’s had previously occupied). It was, for a while, Orange County’s largest supermarket.
But changing demographics and buying patterns led to the closing of the Vons Pavilions, which triggered other vacancies in the center as foot traffic declined.
Several years ago, a proposal to build a 170,0000-square foot WalMart in the center appeared to be headed for approval, but that retailer abruptly cancelled its plans to build in Garden Grove.