WHITTIER — City consultants unveiled a long-awaited redesign plan for the Uptown area this week, calling for a combination of restaurants, movie theaters and retail shops to lure people to the earthquake-devastated district.
City Council members greeted the plan cautiously, praising the new ideas but expressing skepticism about their feasibility. For years, the city has tried unsuccessfully to recruit such businesses to the Uptown.
"My concern is, 'How are we going to do this?' " said Mayor Victor A. Lopez. "That hasn't been answered."
Lopez asked the question of Larry Morrison, a planning consultant for The Arroyo Group, who said such matters could be addressed later in the redesign process. "Today's focus needs to be idealistic," Morrison said.
Focus on 3 Areas
The plan focuses on three Uptown areas that surround what is now the central business district:
At Greenleaf Avenue and Hadley Street, the consultants envision a restaurant and movie theater complex;
A similar complex is suggested at Painter Avenue and Philadelphia Street, across from Whittier College's planned $9.9-million performing arts center, scheduled for completion in early 1990;
And around the Central Park area, historic homes would be converted into boutiques or bed-and-breakfast lodges.
Greenleaf Avenue and Philadelphia Street would remain the center of Uptown, and continue to be the major retail area. Landscaping would be increased along Philadelphia and Bailey streets toward Whittier College.
Parking is a crucial part of the redesign, with several parking structures planned along Greenleaf with walkways leading to shops. Consultants also want to landscape the alleys behind Greenleaf to provide additional walkways.
City Manager Thomas G. Mauk was concerned that the plan relied too heavily on movie theaters, which have not had much luck in the Whittier area. A multi-screen theater failed at Whittwood Mall, and so did Spanish-language movies with $1 admission at the now-closed Whittier Theater.
Morrison agreed that marketing studies show that the area might not be able to support that number of movie theaters. But he added that theaters are one way to get more people walking through the area.
Morrison also said the Uptown area needs to define its boundaries using landscaping, cobblestone walkways or another visual theme, and the city should consider adding signs along Whittier Boulevard directing people to the district.
Councilman Myron Claxton suggested that Philadelphia Street might be designated as a historic parkway from Whittier Boulevard through the Uptown.
Just a Starting Point
The most controversial suggestion was the conversion of the Central Park residential area into a commercial district. Some members of the Earthquake Citizens Advisory Committee, who worked with the Arroyo Group in preparing the plan, objected to making any change in what is one of Whittier's most historic areas.
But Robert Griego, executive director of the Redevelopment Agency, emphasized that the consultant's plan was "only a place to start . . . in putting together a long-term plan."
Uptown Assn. President Lane Langford, an advisory committee member, said the planning process should be expected to generate some controversy.
"Growth is sometimes painful," Langford said. "But what's good about this plan is it changes the Uptown area from a business incubator to a destination point. It invites people to come here."
Councilman Gene Chandler said he did not know whether all of the recommendations would succeed. "But every plan worth its salt has to have a certain dream element involved," he said.
Public hearings on the Arroyo Group's plan are scheduled for August, Griego said, with the final version to be completed by Nov. 1.