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Bell Gardens Seeks New Site Near Casino for Luxury Hotel

June 26, 1986|CARMEN VALENCIA | Times Staff Writer

BELL GARDENS — Plans to put a luxury hotel next to the Bicycle Club had one slight problem: parking.

City officials thought that an area they are acquiring for redevelopment--about 11 acres bordered by Eastern Avenue to the Long Beach Freeway, and Live Oak Street to Priory Street--would hold both a city parking lot and a 150- to 200-room hotel.

But city calculations show that parking will take up much of the site, so the City Council on Monday ordered the staff to look for another area for the hotel. The property the officials say they will look closest at is across the street from the card club. It faces Eastern Avenue and runs south from Fry Street to either Live Oak or Priory.

It was "slated for redevelopment anyway. It was just a matter of when," said City Manager Claude Booker of the string of small stores and restaurants that front on Eastern Avenue. The Eastern Avenue corridor that runs from Clara Street to Loveland Avenue is in the city's Central City Redevelopment Project area.

Merchants Would Agree

Merchants in the area said they have long heard rumors about the impending hotel development, but added that they would move if the price is right.

Actually, those in the affected area won't have much choice about moving. Under redevelopment laws, the city must offer fair market value for the land, but it can invoke its eminent-domain powers to condemn the land of reluctant property owners. The law also requires the city to pay a fair price for relocating businesses and residents.

"I've been doing real good business. Personally, it would have to be the right price," said Manuel Hernandez, who has owned the Hernandez Muffler shop for a year. If the city agrees to pay him what he expects to make over five years and buy him out, he said, "it's fine."

Maria Carrizo, who rents the building that houses her record store, said she has built up her clientele in the seven years she has been there. "Just to pick up and leave would be difficult. But if they offer some type of help, I can rebuild my clientele over time," she said.

Larry Wainer, owner of Centre Jewelry and Loan, a 2,400-square-foot pawn shop and retail store, said business has boomed since the Bicycle Club opened in November, 1984.

"I've seen a dramatic increase in business. This is the best location I could possibly get," he said, adding that he would like to have his two sons take over the business when he retires.

"If they move me someplace else, I wouldn't have the business I have now," said Wainer, who has owned the store for 14 years. However, he said that if the agency were to pay him fair market value and relocation expenses, "it wouldn't be too bad."

Since last year, the city has been working to acquire about 49 residential and commercial parcels south of the casino to assemble for a city parking lot and other commercial developments, such as the hotel.

The city has purchased 15 of the 49 parcels and several have been paved over for a parking lot with about 300 spaces. The parking lot is now being rented to the club for about $19,000 a month. The city has plans to buy the rest of the parcels by the end of the year with various loans and grants.

Booker said "parking demands keep going up," and the city has found itself hard-pressed to provide parking as soon as it is needed.

The club, which has 750 parking spaces of its own, may need an additional 1,000 besides the 300 it now rents from the city, Booker said. The 1,300 parking spaces would take up almost 10 acres of the area the city would be acquiring next to the club, leaving only one acre. That would not be nearly enough for the hotel, he said.

Right to Negotiate

In April, the city approved an exclusive right to negotiate with Encino-based Sam Gilbert & Associates for the hotel, which was going to be alongside the municipal parking lot.

The city will now look at the other property and make parking projections before closing a deal with the developer, Booker said.

The 150- to 200-room hotel is expected to be a splashy Las Vegas-style development, with a health spa, indoor pool, racquetball courts and banquet facilities--all within walking distance of the casino. City officials say they hope the development will draw weekend crowds to the casino.

"It will be like in Vegas. People will gamble, get regenerated (at the spa), get a few hours' sleep and then gamble some more," Booker said.

George Hardie, general manager and partner of the Bicycle Club, said the casino would be able to draw patrons from throughout Southern California by offering weekend packages.

"It will be a great incentive for people to come up and spend a day or two here," said Hardie, noting that several club partners are involved with the hotel project. The developer is the same company that built the club, Booker said.

Hardie, who stressed the importance of having the hotel close to the casino, also said that providing parking for club customers takes precedence over the proposed hotel.

Result of Study

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