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'Old-Fashioned' Mall Cashes In on Location

December 27, 1990|MICHELE FUETSCH

It is called Montebello Town Center and, indeed, the mall's developers have tried to create a Main Street, turn-of-the-century atmosphere, breaking up the vast interior promenades with clusters of street lamps, tall trees, and park benches.

Town Center, though, could not be any farther from the center of Montebello and still be in town. Like an outpost, the modern shopping mecca sits atop a hill at the northernmost edge of the city, beckoning commuters off the Pomona Freeway in a gully below.

Built in 1985 on the site of an old Chevron oil field, Town Center is the most successful mall in Southeast Los Angeles County in terms of sales revenue per square foot--$224 in 1989.

Design and location account for much of Town Center's success, said Geoffrey Fults of Donahue-Schriber, one of the original development partners and the current manager and leasing agent for the mall.

There is only an off-ramp between the mall and the Pomona freeway, and, Fults said, "one of the beauties of the project is that the next mall (Stonewood in Downey) is eight miles away."

Situated as it is, the mall draws from a solid middle-income population in Southeast Los Angeles County as well as from the San Gabriel Valley to the north and west. Indeed, when JC Penney decided to locate in Town Center, it closed stores in Montebello and Monterey Park.

Town Center's developers incorporated the kind of 1980s amenities designed to lure shoppers to a mall and keep them inside for a long time. There are benches on which to sit and rest weary feet. High glass ceilings flood the two-story mall with light. The food court's glass wall allows diners to view the outdoors from inside the unusual atrium-like, three-level space.

Retail heavyweights JC Penney, Mervyn's and May Co. anchor the mall, which has 168 smaller retailers, including a pet store stocked with puppies, guppies and kittens.

One of the exceptions to the standard lineup of mall shops is Dark Alley. Around the corner from Motherhood Maternity, Dark Alley offers a change of pace from suburban mall life. Like the trendy stores that line Los Angeles' Melrose Avenue, Dark Alley features artsy greeting cards, party favors, black wrought-iron candlesticks, up-to-the-minute fashion watches and risque posters.

Then there's Lotus, an Asian gift store stocked to the ceiling with jade jewelry, antiques, vases, lamps, miniature carvings and other art objects.

Town Center is shopping for another anchor store, a mid-level retail companion for May Co., said Fults. He said he hopes to attract a store such as The Broadway.

MONTEBELLO TOWN CENTER MONTEBELLO * Year opened: 1985

* Retail square footage: 644,000

* Anchor stores:

* JC Penney, May Co., Mervyn's

* Number of stores: 171

* Sales tax paid to city in 1989: $1.1 million

* % of city's sales tax revenue--18.1%

* Memorable feature: Light-filled, tri-level food court

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