Auto malls, offering the newest products of car dealerships, are becoming convenient one-stop, shopping centers for car-loving Southern Californians.
The advent of such auto shopping malls, with direct competition among the dealers, fittingly--if belatedly--is taking root here, a national center of attraction for the trend-conscious car industry.
Malls are under development--almost always in the form of redevelopment projects--in cities as varied as Santa Ana, Norco, Ontario, Moreno Valley and Anaheim.
The Irvine Co. is generally credited with creating the first auto mall, the Irvine Auto Center, according to Brian Tiedge, senior director of design for McClellan Cruz Gaylord. The Pasadena-based architectural firm has designed or is designing auto malls for half a dozen Southland communities and four in cities in Oregon, Washington, Texas and Florida.
"The auto rows of such planned communities as Westlake Village were a successful variation on the traditional auto rows such as Brand Boulevard in Glendale and Van Nuys Boulevard in Van Nuys," he added. "But they aren't true auto malls: A true auto mall is not a strip or linear development; a good design should give equal emphasis to pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic."
Communities have various reasons for developing auto malls, Tiedge said. Some, like Moreno Valley and Norco, are relatively new cities that want to avoid the jumble of haphazard dealerships scattered around town.
Others, such as Santa Ana and Ontario, want to retain the dealers in these mature cities, not the least for the sales tax revenue the dealers contribute to the city.
Santa Ana currently gets $1.64 million in annual sales tax revenue from car dealers scattered around town. The new 44-acre, $50-million Santa Ana Auto Mall designed by McClelland Cruz Gaylord and under construction adjacent to California 55 at Edinger Avenue, should boost this to $2.5 million annually, according to Josie La Quay of the Santa Ana Redevelopment Agency.
"All the dealerships in the mall are relocating from other Santa Ana locations," she said. "We had no choice but to develop an auto mall; the dealers would have gone to a city with a mall."
Santa Ana Mazda is expected to be the first to open its showroom next January, according to Cindy Nelson, Santa Ana redevelopment official.
The other eight dealers in the first phase--there is a two-dealership first phase--are Commonwealth Volkswagen, Crevier Motors Inc. (BMW), Santa Ana Chrysler Plymouth/Isuzu, Santa Ana Datsun, Santa Ana Dodge, Santa Ana Lincoln Mercury and a Suburu franchise owned by John McKee of Santa Ana Dodge.
In designing the Santa Ana project, Tiedge had to make each dealership visible from the freeway while still orienting the showrooms toward three central auto-display areas.
Parking will be provided on the streets, in cul-de-sacs and in parking lots.
"Dealers like auto malls for the same reason that other retailers like shopping malls: the traffic," Tiedge said. "They also like the security that auto malls afford. Cars are attractive targets for thieves and vandals."
The city of Norco in Riverside County currently has no auto dealerships; the nearest is in Corona, two miles away. A mall about the size of the Santa Ana one will provide space for 11 dealers.
"We hope the amount of traffic coming to the new mall will bring business to the city," said Ron Cano, Norco's deputy city manager. "When the mall is completed in about three years, it should bring the city $1.8 million in sales-tax revenue every year. It will also create a substantial number of new jobs for the city."
Also designed by the McClelland firm, the mall will be between 2nd and 3rd streets, fronting the Interstate 15 extension scheduled for completion in the winter of 1988.
The architectural firm is also working on a 96-acre auto mall that will be part of the California Commerce Center at Ontario, east of and fronting Interstate 15 at the Jurupa Street intersection. The auto mall is being developed by Ontario Industrial Partners in cooperation with the Ontario Redevelopment Agency.
Ontario, unlike Norco, is already well supplied with auto dealers, with half a dozen serving the 108,000 residents, according to Tim Steinhaus, deputy executive director of the redevelopment agency.
"This will be the first auto mall in San Bernardino County," he added. "Most of these are new dealers, so we're not taking them away from other cities."
He said that the first five dealerships should generate $1 million a year in sales-tax revenue for the city, along with the ultimate creation of 450 jobs.
Jerry Keyser, president of Keyser Marston Associates, a real estate advisory concern with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, has a somewhat different view of the competitive nature of auto malls.