Downey officials have taken the first step toward building the city's largest redevelopment project--a shopping center along Firestone Boulevard.
Last week, developers from Downey Savings and Loan Assn. signed an agreement to negotiate exclusively with the city for the next nine months over construction of the 15.5-acre project.
While the city has more than 30 small retail centers designed to serve local shoppers, city officials say there is a need for large retail stores to attract a wider market.
"Our commitment is not only to retain Downey dollars, but to attract revenue from other areas," said Jake Wager, redevelopment manager.
Developers say the project will be anchored by a major discount department store, like Ross or Marshall's, surrounded by a discount drug store or a grocery store and smaller shops.
Site of Fast-Food Outlets
The site, occupied by fast-food restaurants, various retail stores and a savings and loan, is across the street from the Stonewood Shopping Center. Both city officials and developers say the two centers will not compete with each other. In fact, Ron D. Holley, vice president of Downey Savings and Loan, said that the proximity of the two centers may create a boon in retail sales equaling those of the Cerritos and Lakewood shopping malls.
"We are not trying to compete with Stonewood, we are trying to complement it," Holley said. "The two centers combined would certainly create a strong market mix, so it is conceivable that we could attract some business away from Cerritos and Lakewood."
The Stonewood Shopping Center, built in 1958, generates about $1.3 million in annual retail sales tax revenue, according to Lowell Williams, the city's finance manager. Developers from Downey Savings and Loan estimate that the proposed shopping center will generate about $450,000 in annual sales tax revenue. City officials in Cerritos and Lakewood estimate annual sales tax revenue from their malls at $2 million each.
But John Stewart, manager of the Stonewood Shopping Center, said he is uncertain how the new center will affect Stonewood.
"I can't imagine that a shopping center across the street would have a negative effect on Stonewood, so it might be a good thing, but it's really too soon to tell," he said.
Divided Into Two Sites
Lakewood Boulevard will divide the project into two sites, with 9.5 acres on the east and 6 acres on the west.
Holley said that although the two sites are separated, they will have the same architectural design.
"We can't physically bridge the two sites, so we are constructing what we call a marketing bridge," he said. "The two sites will have twin themes."
Developers have contacted a few property owners about staying on the site, according to Holley, but he declined to reveal their names, saying he did not want to jeopardize negotiations.
According to Wager, city officials have notified property owners of the proposed project and are prepared to provide relocation assistance.
"It's really too early to say how all this will turn out," Wager said. "But I do think that if this project goes through it would create a fantastic draw for people not only in Downey but from other cities."