PICO RIVERA — When this city incorporated in 1958, the Whittier Boulevard business area was already viewed as if it were an aging movie star in need of a face lift.
The City Council knew then that the collection of small retail stores, takeout restaurants and vacant lots would have to give way to new commercial developments if the city's downtown corridor was to make a successful comeback, Councilman James M. Patronite said.
"Whittier Boulevard was the biggest heap of junk this side of L.A.," said Patronite, who was on the first elected council in 1958.
Nearly 30 years after incorporation, the only major improvement has been Pico Rivera Plaza, which was built in 1980.
But local officials say that by the end of next year, at least one more section of Whittier Boulevard will have a new look.
Construction of three shopping centers is scheduled to begin early in 1987 along the south side of Whittier Boulevard between Rosemead Boulevard and Millux Avenue. And 34 new homes are under construction between Millux and the eastern city limits.
Competing With Other Cities
Officials say they expect the new developments not only to improve the image of the city of 56,000 but also put it into competition with neighboring cities, some of which have boasted bigger and better shopping centers since the 1960s.
"We know we won't stop people from shopping outside the city by 100%. But we hope to have enough so that we're on par with neighboring cities," Mayor Gilbert de la Rosa said.
City Manager Dennis Courtemarche said that despite the presence of the Pico Rivera Plaza, many people still do not regard Pico Rivera as a place "where they can get everything they want."
As a result they shop elsewhere, usually in Whittier, Cerritos, Downey and most recently Montebello, which opened its Town Center shopping center last year, he said. As a result the city loses potential sales tax revenues that it sorely needs, he said.
Merchants collect 6 1/2 cents in sales tax on every dollar spent in the city. The state returns one cent to city government.
Whittier recorded $6 million in sales tax revenues last year, Montebello $5.5 million, Cerritos $14 million and Downey $9 million; a large percentage of Downey's and Cerritos' came from auto sales. Pico Rivera recorded just $3.8 million, up from $2 million in 1980.
De la Rosa said the increase stemmed largely from the Pico Rivera Plaza and an aggressive city promotion to get people to shop close to home.
Before the promotion campaign last year, Pico Rivera estimated that it was losing $2 million in sales tax revenues and that residents were spending $200 million outside the city, according to Bill Schlapper, city public information officer.
Hundreds of Jobs
The city expects the new commercial developments on Whittier Boulevard to generate $1 million in annual sales tax revenues and create hundreds of jobs in retail sales and services for the city, Courtemarche said.
At least $750,000 of that revenue will come from the Crossroads Plaza, an 18.5-acre shopping mall planned for the southeast corner of Whittier Boulevard and Rosemead Avenue that will create 400 jobs. The city previously collected $55,000 in sales tax revenues from existing uses at the site.
The $22-million Crossroads Plaza will be anchored by a 60,000-square-foot Albertson's Grocery Warehouse and a 100,000-square-foot Home Depot appliance store. The mall will include Shakey's Pizza and Taco Bell restaurants. The Whittier Boulevard Post Office will be inside the mall.
Construction will begin in January and end in September, 1987, according to the developer, the Rainier Fund Inc.
The other projects on Whittier Boulevard include:
The Gateway residential project: 34 single-family homes under construction on the southeast corner of Whittier Boulevard and Millux Avenue. The expected completion date is March, 1987.
The Gateway commercial project: a two-acre shopping center next to the new homes. Construction is scheduled to begin in June, 1987, and be completed by the end of the year.
A Standard Brands Paint store, which will anchor a 3.5-acre shopping center between Passons Boulevard and Durfee Avenue. It also is scheduled to be completed by the end of 1987.
The city also plans to spend $1.5 million to widen and improve Whittier Boulevard.
The Whittier Boulevard projects are expected to cost the Redevelopment Agency at least $12 million, which it will raise through loans from the city and the sale of bonds, according to David Caretto, assistant city manager. The agency has sold $27 million in bonds and borrowed $6 million from the city to finance seven development projects including four on the boulevard, Courtemarche said.
The agency was able to secure $20 million in bonds for the projects through anticipated property tax revenues from the 300-acre Northrop Corp., which the city added to the redevelopment zone in 1983, he said.
High Human Costs
The human costs have been high also, according to Patronite.