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May Co. Intends to Join a Rebuilt, Enclosed Stonewood Mall

February 12, 1989|ROCHELLE WILKERSON | Times Staff Writer

DOWNEY — Stonewood Shopping Center, a 31-year-old open-air mall, is scheduled for a face lift that may include a 150,000-square-foot May Co. store.

May Co. has submitted a letter of intent to Hughes Investments, owner of the center, asking permission to build a two-level department store at the mall, which is to be enclosed and expanded by November, 1990.

The May Co. proposal must be approved by the three other major stores at Stonewood--J. C. Penney, Mervyn's and the Broadway--before a contract is signed. Spokesmen for all three said last week that they would welcome the addition.

Plans for the new store and for expansion must also pass muster with the city.

The May Co. is just one of 40 to 50 new stores that will be added to Stonewood by the expansion, which is projected to cost up to $40 million. The mall now has 100 stores.

Hughes Investments officials say that expanding and enclosing Stonewood will have several lasting beneficial effects for Downey.

"It re-establishes Downey as a major force of trade," said Patrick Flynn, Hughes' director of marketing. "It provides a sales tax base for the city and provides 1,500 part-time and full-time jobs."

Stonewood now employs 750 people.

Downey has not projected the amount of revenue the redeveloped mall will generate, but the project does mean a definite increase in sales taxes, said Scot Yotsuya, assistant to the city manager. The mall now brings Downey about $1 million annually in sales taxes.

Hughes bought the aging shopping center at Downey Avenue and Firestone Boulevard in late 1986. The company decided to enclose and enlarge the mall so it would look modern and attract more customers.

A report to the City Council last year said Stonewood draws customers within a 15-minute driving radius, whereas other regional malls get shoppers from a driving radius of 25 to 30 minutes.

The idea of upgrading the mall was supported in April by an independent planning and development consulting firm, Stanley R. Hoffman Associates, in a report to the City Council on redeveloping the city's central hub. The report also recommended that the council consider reorganizing present businesses on Firestone Boulevard near the mall to complement Stonewood.

Included in the report were ways that 3.2 miles of Firestone Boulevard--considered the city's commercial center--can draw more customers from throughout the region by moving several auto dealerships scattered along the street to the eastern and western ends of the main thoroughfare.

Yotsuya said the consulting firm's report--which cost $27,000--will be used only as a "reference tool" and that the council has no plans now to implement any of its recommendations.

Merchants and shoppers recently had generally favorable comments about the plans for Stonewood.

Kevin Kelley, manager of three clothing stores at Stonewood (Miller's West, Miller's Store for Men and Kelley Greene's), said the proposed addition of May Co. and the expansion of the mall will increase his already-lucrative business.

'Benefits Downey as a Whole'

"I'm excited about it. . . . It benefits Downey as a whole, not just my business. Hopefully, the Downey corridor will follow suit," said Kelley, who has worked at Stonewood for 20 years.

Jarman Shoe Store Manager Kevin Moore was told that Stonewood was "a potential gold mine" by his supervisors, who assigned him there more than two years ago.

But the gold mine never panned out because another Jarman store, in Los Cerritos Center less than 10 miles from Stonewood, gets more customers.

The recent closing of the Cerritos store for remodeling has given Moore a preview of what he thinks sales will be like once the Stonewood expansion is complete.

"Now that the Cerritos (store) is closed for remodeling, many of the customers are driving to Stonewood saying, 'I didn't know the mall was here . . . and we live here in Downey,' " he said.

Night Shopper Increase Seen

Janet Green, a new manager of Crafts Show Case, sees the May Co. addition as a big improvement that will increase the number of people who shop at night.

Many customers expressed fear about night shopping after a young woman's body was found in a vehicle in the mall parking lot in December, Green said.

It was later determined that the woman was murdered elsewhere and her body brought to Stonewood.

Stonewood is patroled by eight licensed officers. Larry Norton, the mall's general manager, said more officers will be hired because of the expansion.

Shoppers seemed to have mixed feelings about the pending changes at Stonewood.

"I don't shop at May Co., to tell you the truth," Judy McGregory of Downey said. "I just don't like it."

Estella Tiscareno of Bell Gardens had a completely different opinion: "I think it will be great to have another May Co. store. The more stores (here) the better."

Old Friends of the Mall

Susan Mendez of Pico Rivera saw the enclosure of Stonewood almost as the demise of an old friend: "Well, I like the open mall better. There are not many of them around any more. . . . (It's) not that big of a mall that you can't get around from one end to another."

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