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Downey Council Approves Plan to Upgrade Aging Mall

July 13, 1989|RICK HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

DOWNEY — Plans to enclose the Stonewood shopping center and add a May Co. department store took a major step forward Tuesday as the City Council unanimously approved an environmental impact report and development plan for the project.

The enclosure and expansion of the aging mall is a key element in the city's effort to modernize its Firestone Boulevard commercial corridor, a campaign to attract more business and additional tax dollars for Downey.

Hughes Investments of Newport Beach, which owns the shopping center, must still secure building, utility and other technical permits. But Tuesday night's council action was the green light for the project, said Ken Farfsing, director of community development.

Completion Planned for Next Year

Hughes plans to complete the renovation by October, 1990, a spokesman said.

"I think it's a wonderful project long overdue," Councilman Roy L. Paul said.

Stonewood generates about $1 million a year in sales tax revenue for the city, an amount that is expected to increase by $500,000 to $1 million a year after the expansion, Finance Director Lee Powell said.

Key to the expansion is the addition of a two-story May Co. store, which is to be built off Stonewood's main entrance on Firestone Boulevard. The addition of the 146,000-square-foot building will boost Stonewood's leasable shopping area to 944,000 square feet, Farfsing said. The shopping center now has three anchors--J.C. Penney, Mervyn's and The Broadway--which are surrounded by a variety of small shops and restaurants.

Other major improvements to Stonewood, which was built in the 1950s, include arched entries and a roof with glass skylights and domes. The domes will be covered with a translucent fabric similar to the covering on some domed sports stadiums.

The renovation will transform the nondescript shopping center into a modern-looking structure featuring simple geometric shapes. The colors of the main structure will be salmon, turquoise and teal. The May Co. and existing anchors will have their own colors.

Hughes Investment spokesman John C. Pentz declined to release the cost of the renovation. But Farfsing estimated about $30 million would be spent in addition to the $10 million it will cost to build the May Co. addition.

The development plan approved by the council also requires about $730,000 in public improvements, including a bus turnout and shelter next to Stonewood's main entrance on Firestone Boulevard, and a new traffic signal at the mall's western entrance at Lakewood Boulevard and 3rd Street.

A portion of Woodruff Boulevard will be widened where it intersects with Firestone Boulevard. Larger water mains will be installed to improve water flow for firefighting. Larger storm drains also will be installed.

Farfsing said Hughes Investments plans to request that the city pay for the public improvements, which would have to be approved by the council. The project cannot go forward without the improvements, he said.

"They want the city to pick up the cost of those improvements," Farfsing said. "We'll have to see how that goes."

Widening of Boulevards Planned

In addition to those improvements, the city is planning a long-needed $3-million widening of the intersection of Firestone and Lakewood boulevards, Farfsing said. Hughes probably will be required to pay for a small percentage of the cost of improving the intersection, an amount proportional to the traffic Stonewood generates at the intersection, Farfsing said.

The expansion of the mall is expected to generate 7.5% more daily trips to the mall, a jump from 30,550 trips to nearly 33,000 trips, according to the environmental impact report. The report predicted that traffic impacts will not be significant once the improvements are made.

No area residents spoke in opposition to the project, but one said later that she would circulate a petition to ask Hughes Investments to close the mall's north entrance on Cecilia Street. Resident Julie Gaston said she fears shoppers will pass through her residential neighborhood to the north to reach Florence Avenue.

"If (the entrance) remains open and the mall increases in size, it's going to impact us a great deal," she said.

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