MONTEBELLO — Another piece of the sprawling commercial corridor envisioned by city leaders in the hills of northern Montebello fell into place last week when the City Council approved an agreement to negotiate with two auto companies to develop a 10-acre auto park.
The City Council voted Tuesday, 4 to 1, to begin exclusive talks with Ford Motor Land Development Co. and Ostrom Chevrolet, which want five acres each to build an auto sales center.
The auto park is one of three projects planned in the 660-acre Montebello Hills Redevelopment Project Area, which encompasses the rolling hillside now dotted by oil wells south of the Pomona Freeway and parts of town north of Beverly Boulevard between Garfield Avenue and the Rio Hondo River.
If all goes as planned, the auto park will be built between Montebello Boulevard and the Pomona Freeway, just west of Paramount Boulevard. Linda Payan, the city's economic development director, said the auto complex would provide 150 to 200 jobs, and the city could reap $500,000 a year in sales tax revenues.
Before work begins, officials of the land development company and Ostrom Chevrolet must present the city with a final proposal within 120 days. Each company is negotiating to buy a five-acre parcel, which would cost about $2 million, Payan said.
Payan said the city is marking down the price per square foot from $13 to $9, saving each company about $900,000, including the price of land grading.
If the final proposal by the two companies is approved by the city, Ostrom will relocate from its Whittier Boulevard location, and Ford may open a new sales center or relocate an existing center, Payan said.
Final paper work has yet to be completed, but city leaders are confident that a deal with the companies will be worked out.
"When you're talking about this much money, it's not a done deal until the check is signed," Mayor Ed Pizzorno said. "But I would expect things are 90% solid. I'm optimistic, we are well on our way."
Payan said the city was approached by four auto dealers who wanted to buy the 10-acre site, but Ford and Ostrom Chevrolet had the strongest proposals and, historically, have had the strongest sales.
The proposed auto park is just one chunk of a growing commercial core in northern Montebello. By the end of the decade, city officials estimate, at least 130 acres of retail shops, restaurants and many other businesses could be operating around the intersection of Montebello and Paramount boulevards. If the businesses succeed, the city could be earning about $3 million a year in sales tax revenues from the northern Montebello commercial corridor.
"Sometimes people come up to me, and they ask, 'Why do you want more shops up there? Why do we need an auto center?' " Pizzorno said. "People sometimes don't realize what things like that mean to a city.
"They want police protection, fire protection, park programs. . . . It's the sales tax produced up there that pays for all that protection. To do everything that the people want, we have to have the money."
To get that money, the city in May approved the $33-million Montebello Town Square project, a 20-acre commercial center to be built next to the auto park and east of the 5-year-old Montebello Regional Town Center shopping mall. The mall last year pumped $982,000 in sales tax revenue into the city's coffers.
The Town Square will include a movie complex with eight to 10 screens, a theater, three fast-food outlets, an upscale restaurant, a Sears shopping center and a toy store.
The city is also working on plans with Chevron Land & Development Co. to develop a 450-acre residential and commercial development directly south of the auto park, Town Square and Regional Town Center. Preliminary plans for the Chevron project, which will encompass the last remaining open space in Montebello, call for luxury homes and condominiums, a senior citizens' housing complex, a new fire station, an elementary school and a commercial site of 50 to 75 acres that would face the auto center and Town Square.
Plans for the Chevron project are not expected to be finalized for two years, and development could take eight years, city leaders said.
"We are all feeling good about what is happening in our community right now," Councilwoman Kathy Salazar said. "We are making a lot of progress."