The face of Alhambra’s West Main Street will undergo major changes in 2011, erecting construction projects that the city has valued at $105 million. The transformation got started last week with the demolition of the circa-1975 former library. Next year construction will begin on a Spanish Revival-inspired four-story structure with townhouses and shops. It’s the first of three construction projects that are slated to get underway next year on the stretch of Main Street between 2nd Street and Atlantic Boulevard, making way for nearly 200 homes, stores, and offices that the city says will bring more than 600 workers to the area.
“That’s a lot of people in a time that people are complaining that there are no opportunities,” City Manager Julio Fuentes said. "It’s amazing what we’ve done."
The City Ventures library project and Sam Wong’s Casita de Zen housing development are part of a 2005 redevelopment plan for the West Main Corridor. Its stated goals were to “further support the revitalization of Downtown Alhambra and establish an upscale, mixed-use district encompassing commercial, professional, and financial uses accompanied by housing.” Other objectives included extending the walking district along Main Street, creating an “attractive, coherent streetscape” and ensuring that “suitable public infrastructure is provided” along with development.
An additional project under development in the West Main Corridor, which is not officially part of the master plan, was the sale of the Edwards Atlantic Palace to the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission (LACDC), which is planning on converting it into a 130,000-square-foot building. Doug Cohen, a consultant for the LACDC, estimates that two agencies that will use the site, the Community District Block Grants and the Housing Authority, will bring roughly 575 employees to the building. The architecture of the building, which will be LEED certified according to the city, will echo the BMW dealership across the street, with a flat roof and glass veneer.
All three projects are scheduled to begin construction in 2011, with the library site leading the way. City Ventures purchased the old library from the city for $4.55 million and the city estimates its value will be $30 million upon completion. The artist renderings for the site shows two castle-like structures, complete with turrets, divided by a courtyard. The ground floor will be reserved for retail, while the top three floors are for apartments, with additional townhomes facing Alhambra High School. The project, according to the city, will create 80 homes and six shop units. Developers hope to have models ready for display by July 4, 2011 and construction completed by 2013. The project should generate $260,000 per year in property tax and $23,000 in sales tax, according to estimates made by Vanessa Reynoso, the city’s former deputy director of development studies.
These new buildings should bring more business and life to this stretch of Main Street, but will also likely cause increased congestion in already stressed thoroughfares. City Manager Fuentes said this should not stand in the way of development. “The bottom line for us that we’re not going to discourage development because of traffic because no matter what happens we’re going to have traffic,” he said. “It’s naive to believe that we can stand still and the traffic will go away. It won’t because everyone else around us won’t, they’re going to develop.” At the same time, he said that measures will be taken to encourage alternate forms of transit, including encouraging ride sharing, potentially developing a bicycling plan, and creating new links to other transportation systems that exist such as the Gold Line.
The effect of the new developments may yet to be determined, but there is no question the scale of investment is noteworthy. “In this economy, that’s a significant investment anywhere and it certainly would be for most cities of 85,000,” said the city manager of Ventura and former mayor of Pasadena, Rick Cole. “Alhambra has had a history of city initiative as well as changing demographics, and it’s been aggressive at redevelopment investments, so it doesn’t surprise me.”