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The Shops at The Alhambra may soon double in size and include a new big box store


1000 Fremont Avenue
Alhambra , CA United States

The Shops at The Alhambra, on Fremont between Mission and Orange, may soon double in size and include a new big box store. Wayne Ratkovich, CEO of the Ratkovich Company, presented their plans for expanding The Shops at Alhambra retail center at Tuesday evening’s City Council and Redevelopment Agency meeting.   He announced that an agreement had been reached to purchase the International Extrusions site at 1000 South Meridian Avenue, and escrow is scheduled to close in December.

They are also looking to purchase the facilities along Fremont Avenue just north of the Kohl’s shopping complex.  Together, this would about double the size of the Shops at the Alhambra.  Plans show two options, one of which includes a big-box retailer with significantly more square footage than the existing Kohls.

To help pay for the land acquisition for the expanded Shops at the Alhambra as well as a proposed project at the Alhambra Place at Garfield and Main (status of this project was not yet ready for presentation at last night’s meeting), the city is proposing an amendment to the Annual Action Plan which would utilize $4.9 million of Community Development Block Grant funding via a Section 108 loan.  A public hearing for this amendment is scheduled for October 11, 5:30pm in the council chambers.

But a sense of urgency was prevalent as Mr. Fuentes described the state of Alhambra’s Redevelopment Agency.  The Plan is scheduled to expire in 2012.  If allowed to expire, the city would be unable to apply state and federal redevelopment funding to its projects.  In order to extend redevelopment plans, the city needs to show a need which is based largely on evidence of structural or economic blight.

In support of this, the city had contracted with GRC Associates in March to perform a blight analysis.  They, along with retired Alhambra Development Services Director, Michael Martin, who is consulting with the City, presented the results of their analysis.  They concluded that their was sufficient evidence of blight and would be preparing an updated Redevelopment Plan accordingly.

John Oshimo, President of GRC Associates, cited threats to this proposal and the city’s ability to direct funding to commercial development.  Namely, that the county and state will likely examine and possibly challenge their claims of blight; additional obligations dictated by the state for affordable housing; and an increase in the requirement for set-aside funding dedicated to housing needs from 20% to 30%.

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9 thoughts on “The Shops at The Alhambra may soon double in size and include a new big box store”

  1. I am a new resident to Alhambra (2 yrs) and have lots of questions about the use of redevelopment funds in recent years.

    Agree with previous posters that the parcels in question do not seem blighted. From a planning perspective, it seems questionable to be building more retail along Mission, given the already congested traffic conditions in the area and when there is so much underutilized retail space along Main and Valley. I’m especially thinking about the vacant big box at the Fresh and Easy Center.

    I know that sales tax revenues have a major impact on the city’s general fund but would hope that the city could be more thoughtful. Also, wondering if the developer needs the redevelopment funds to make the project “pencil out” given the not so rosy prospects for retailers/commercial space these days.

  2. This is a signifcant oppertunity to revitalize the area, bordered by key transportation routes. Try adding an areial tram between the shopping projects. Make shopping fun again. What about including a community garden nearby, with veggie sales booths and maybe a garden supply shop?

    Alhambra offers industrial and central business-district project areas. Financial assistance in redevelopment areas; including land acquisition, negotiated sales, lease agreements with an option to purchase, rent subsidies and rebates, low intrest loans, and relocation resources.
    A redevelopment negotiation template that includes local resident hiring requirements.
    The Alhambra sales pitch touts sound management, economic vitality, and quality of life. Work,live, play learn.
    Alhambra must facilitate business entry, expansion and retention.
    It must make economic development and job creation a top priority.

    Alhambra closed the Adult school, making it harder to learn English, get computer skills and G.E.D. diplomas for it’s most vulnurable residents.
    Why can’t there be a partnership with property owners, technology firms and the local AT&T services provider located next to the civic center and offer this training that has disappeared.

    Current employment positions @ Feemont Plaza.
    0105-2568 W COMMONWEALTH AVE
    ALHAMBRA, CA 91803
    Current Job Opportunities
    Apply – Bather
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    Is there a management crisis?

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    Work Locations:2500 West Commonwealth Ave, Alhambra 91802-1307

    1. The proposed development at The Shops at the Alhambra will have varied effects on residents – some good, some not so good. But the issue is the use of federal CDBG funding to subsidize this retail center. In my opinion, it is unethical for the city to do so. The city’s rationalization is the creation of jobs, which indeed will be generated. But they have insufficient provisions in place to ensure they go to those for whom the grant funding is intended – lower income groups. They also lack provisions to ensure livable wages and sufficient health benefits.

      I’m not rendering an opinion on whether to develop the site or not. I’m just saying don’t do it with the people’s money. I will argue vehemently with anyone about the city’s rationalization of trickle-down economics. The $4.9M in grant funding is a relatively small portion of the overall retail development costs. But it can go a long way when applied directly to those for whom the grant is intended. The city is bending over backwards to engage the developer, but at the cost of under-serving its residents. Perhaps better uses of the grant funding are community projects which can help with ESL, GED, and training – those programs you mention that are now lacking.

      1. I’m trying to get a handle on how the city leaders think this through. We’ve been destroying our Main Street business district in favor of Big Box stores on the West side of town for years. Think a ‘garden supply shop’ will make it in the Alhambra? unlikely because the Home Depot offers supplies for ‘less’ and people shop with their wallets.

        By building retail with PUBLIC money in the industrial section of town we completely change the face of business in the city.

        Why not use $4,900,000 towards revitalizing the Main street areas between the Target/Costco center and Chapel. How about improving the walkability and livability of our Main business streets like Valley Blvd, Atlantic, Main Street and Garfield and leave the industrial areas as is so that companies building real products and services can afford the rents.

      2. Anonymous brings up some very valid discussion points. It’s this type of open discussion that should be considered by the city council/ARA prior to committing HUD grant funding. Especially when it’s nearly $5M.

        It’s also worth mentioning that the old International Extrusion Corp. facility where the new development will take place was, at one time, one of the leading employers in Alhambra with over 230 jobs. It’s these skilled labor and manufacturing jobs that can give families a livable wage, unlike many of the part-time wages big-box retailers will pay. Anonymous’ point about also helping the industrial areas stay competitive is well-taken.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Dan.

    At Tuesday night’s council and ARA meeting, the city’s consultants explained their rationale for determining blight.

    It’s obvious that the city wants certain areas deemed blighted to continue their eligibility for state and federal funding for commercial development. This generates an inherent conflict of interest: the city is paying a consultant to render a decision that is hopefully in their favor. And the consultant, who serves in this capacity for other cities as well, will benefit their business by giving customers what they want. (I have no information to indicate that the consultant is acting inappropriately.)

    And you’re not the only one who doesn’t think the area is blighted: HUD (the federal source of the grant funding the city is proposing go to this development) doesn’t either. Which is why the city had to go out and engage a third party consultant.

  4. Pertinent questions by Jo. The city has invested millions of dollars of federal HUD funding on retail development. In addition to the proposed Shops at Alhambra extension, Fremont Plaza (Toys R Us, Petsmart, …) was also partially funded by such funds.

    Depending on the success of these businesses and property appreciation, the city can receive substantial sales and property tax revnue. The developer will also receive substantial profits from high lease rates or development sales. There is, of course, risk carried by both parties: poor retail sales and low vacancy rates would provide less return on their investment.

    But there’s more than just these two players (city and developer). There’s also the residents of Alhambra. How are they served by this deal?

    At the heart of the matter is the appropriateness of applying these funds toward subsidizing retail development. HUD guidelines for this grant funding does allow it to be applied for economic development, but it must be used in a way which “principally benefit low- and moderate-income persons, aid in the elimination or prevention of slums and blight, or meet urgent needs of the community.” [ref. http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/communitydevelopment/programs/108/index.cfm ].

    In a meeting with Jessica Keating (Assistant to the City Manager of Alhambra and the person working the details of this deal) a few weeks ago, I asked how this complies with the grant guidelines. She provided the justification that jobs will be created and restrictions will be placed on the businesses such that 51% of the jobs must go to Alhambra residents.

    But she could not answer my questions on how they could enforce or sustain this arrangement. Also, they are not giving special attention that jobs go first to lower income groups. Nor could she provide a measure which would preclude employers from taking a full-time job and splitting it up into several part-time jobs such that they avoid providing benefits. The bottom line is that many of the proposed jobs would likely not pay a livable wage, and many would likely not provide health benefits.

    Ms. Keating also justified the use of such funds for retail development by saying it would help residents via the trickle-down effect once the city reaps its benefits. A precarious argument at best considering “trickle-down” economics is not particularly popular during this great recession.

    The city is working with the developer and is proposing this $4.9M as their contribution. The intended use of these funds are undeniably to help lower-income groups or to eliminate blight. Neither are being addressed here. The creation of jobs is needed, but there appears to be inadequate measures in place to ensure they go to those residents who need them. Alternate uses of these funds which go more directly to the residents in need should at least be considered.

  5. I would agree with the assessment that the area is not blighted. Industrial, yes. Blighted, no. And I second the motion that Ratkovich does not need the assistance.

    Transfer of public wealth to private developers.
    The Redevelopment Agency’s Annual Action Plan expires in 2012.
    State/federal redevelopment funding releaves structural/economic blight.
    A blight analysis report is used as justification for the Redevelopment Agency to win state and federal funding awards for disbursement to qualified projects. (Within the INTENDED guidelines of the Grants.)

    The Annual Action Plan amendment, propses $4.9 million of Community Development Block Grant funding via a Section 108 loan, to help Wayne Ratkovich, CEO of the Ratkovich Company pay for the land acquisition to double the size of the Shops at the Alhambra.

    The county and state will
    1-likely examine and possibly challenge their claims of blight
    2-question their ability to direct funding to commercial development
    3-additional obligations dictated by the state for affordable housing
    4-an increase in the requirement for set-aside funding dedicated to housing needs from 20% to 30%.

    How much profit for the developer, and how much revenue for the city in years to come, long after the developer banks his profits, turns his back and moves on?

    How much money did city agencies invest for The Shops at Alhambra retail center, and how much annual revenue does that generate for the city?