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Monrovia Makes the Most of Redevelopment Tools : City Successful in Attracting Big and Small Firms

June 12, 1988|DAVID M. KINCHEN | Times Staff Writer

In the decade since Proposition 13 was overwhelmingly approved by Californians upset by skyrocketing property taxes, aggressive redevelopment has been one way cities have been able to survive and even thrive.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the San Gabriel Valley community of Monrovia, according to James E. Starbird, city manager and executive director of the Monrovia Redevelopment Agency.

"Our redevelopment process began in 1973--well before the passage of Prop. 13 10 years ago this month--and has afforded us the opportunity to emerge from the economic shadow of neighboring Pasadena and Glendale," he said.

Regional Auto Mall

"The redevelopment plan encompasses a 450-acre project area that includes the beautification of the city's main street, Myrtle Avenue; a retail center along West Huntington Drive, a high-tech/office corridor along East Huntington Drive, a regional auto mall with freeway visibility; a general industrial area, and an area for upgraded housing."

The numbers speak for themselves, he said: In 1978-79, the assessed property value of the city of 34,000 was about $460 million. Thanks to aggressive redevelopment, this figure reached $1.2 billion in 1987-88.

The increase in sales tax revenues--a major way of replacing tax dollars that were lost through property tax increases, severely restrained by Proposition 13--is even more impressive. In 1978-79, the city's sales tax revenue was $1.39 million.

"Through development of the West Huntington Drive retail area and the 19.3-acre 210 Autoplex at the Foothill (210) Freeway and Mountain Avenue, we've been able to register about a 19% annual increase in sales tax revenue, reaching $4.5 million in 1987-88," Starbird said.

Credits 3 Developers

Donald R. Hopper, the city's director of community development and Starbird's assistant on the redevelopment agency, credits three developers with helping to change the image of Monrovia as an office location.

The first was a small developer, Fred Bowden, who built about 40,000 square feet of light-industrial condominiums on Huntington Drive in 1983.

He was followed quickly by a medium-sized developer, George Boone & Associates--since June 1 known as Boone Fetter Associates--which has developed or is in the process of developing more than 320,000 square feet of office, high-tech and R&D space in Monrovia.

In an orderly progression--from the smallest to the largest developer--came the San Gabriel Valley office of Trammell Crow Co., the nation's largest privately held commercial and industrial development firm.

Huntington Plaza

Trammell Crow's third Monrovia project, Huntington Plaza, will open next month with 116,000 square feet in two buildings linked by a 35-foot-high atrium, according to the firm's Janice K. Galletly.

"This complex, on the south side of Huntington Drive just east of Myrtle Avenue, will bring our total space in Monrovia to more than 250,000 square feet," she added. "It's geared to office, sales and service, research and development and financial back-shop operations ranging from 3,000 to 116,000 square feet."

Complementing the Trammell Crow project, designed by Langdon Wilson Mumper, is a Boone Fetter development on the north side of Huntington Drive at Mountain Avenue, a two-story, 90,690-square-foot light-industrial building. Taken together, the two structures are part of what Hopper calls Monrovia's "building block" redevelopment concept.

Other elements of this building block approach are the 1977 downtown beautification program, the construction of the $50-million, 29-acre sub-regional Huntington Oaks shopping center on Huntington Drive, the relocation of the car dealers from the Huntington Drive "auto row" to the auto mall and the construction of the 152-room Howard Johnson's and 180-room Holiday Inn.

Hotels Held Vital

The hotels and the shopping opportunities contribute to the city's business orientation, according to Trammell Crow's Janice Galletly.

"One of the first questions we're asked by prospective tenants is whether there are hotels, restaurants and shops close to the offices, and we've been able to give affirmative answers in all cases," she said.

"If the city had not rebuilt the downtown, we probably wouldn't have been able to attract the hotels," Hopper said. "Without the hotels, we probably could not have attracted the developer of Huntington Oaks. Without Huntington Oaks, we would not have attracted Boone and Trammell Crow."

Among the tenants attracted to the revitalized city are Joy Technologies, Western Precipitation Division Inc., World Vision International, Ametek Corp., Lee & Ro Consulting Engineers, Perma Cal Corp., California Federal and Mellon Financial Services.

Move from Pasadena

More recently, the Swedish-owned pharmaceutical firm, Pharmacia Ophthalmics, has announced plans to consolidate its operations from six locations in Pasadena to a 140,000-square-foot Boone Fetter structure at the corner of Huntington Drive and Shamrock Avenue.

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