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Wave of Building Props Up Whittier Economy, Spirits

July 10, 1988|MARY LOU FULTON | Times Staff Writer

WHITTIER — Development worth nearly $20 million is under construction in the earthquake-torn Uptown Village business district, boosting the local economy and the spirits of residents tired of watching months of demolition work.

"Anything, anything that is building, any sign that reflects the vitality of the businesses is good," said Marilyn Neece, executive director of the Whittier Uptown Assn. "The business people are aware that they're vital . . . but it's easier to persuade other people with outward signs" such as new construction.

As of May 31, the city had issued permits for about $3.9 million worth of commercial construction, compared to $446,000 at this time last year, said Richard Hubinger, the city's director of building and planning.

About half of the $20 million is for the Whittier College Performing Arts Center, which is expected to be completed in late 1989. After a two-year delay, construction started last month on the center at Painter Avenue and Philadelphia Street.

Chateau Whittier, a 146-unit senior citizen housing project also planned before the Oct. 1 earthquake, is scheduled to open in August on Philadelphia Street.

One of the largest of the post-earthquake reconstruction projects is the $3.3-million Theisen office building on Philadelphia Street. Ground was broken earlier this year for the 3-story building, which will have one floor of retail space and two floors of office space.

Another 3-story building, the Atrium, is being planned for Greenleaf Avenue and Bailey Street. The Atrium will be mostly retail and commercial space with a food court in the center.

Work is expected to begin in September on the reconstruction of the Lindley Building, which was Whittier's oldest commercial structure at the time of the earthquake.

The 99-year-old unreinforced masonry building was demolished, but the bricks and elaborate cornice pieces were salvaged and will be used in the reconstruction, architect Dave Pickard said. The project will take about five months, he said.

15 Others Approved

In addition to the projects under way, more than 15 others have been approved by the city's Design Review Board, the first step in the building process, City Planner David Salazar said.

One of those, the Huckfeldt furniture building, was among 30 Uptown structures that had to be demolished after the Oct. 1 earthquake. Owner Dale Huckfeldt placed an advertisement in the program for this weekend's Uptown Village Festival to let customers know he would be back.

"The Uptown area is not going to stay a disaster area," said Huckfeldt, whose family had operated a furniture store in Whittier for 56 years until the earthquake. "I'd like to show the people of Whittier we have confidence in Whittier."

Huckfeldt plans a 10,000-square-foot, 2-story building to replace his old Greenleaf Avenue store.

Besides the new construction, permits have been issued for $2.5 million in alterations to commercial buildings this year, compared to $1.8 million last year, Hubinger said.

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