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'X' Marks the Spot for Convenient Shopping

December 27, 1990|EDMUND NEWTON

If you live in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, it's hard to match the Puente Hills Mall for convenience, shoppers say. A huge X-shaped building with a major department store at each of its four points, the mall sits next to the Pomona Freeway like a beacon for shoppers.

There are vast open spaces for parking, a direct link to the freeway from Azusa Avenue, 185 stores and, in the mall's "take-a-break" area (near JC Penney), a big rubber fire engine for kids to climb on.

By next spring, managers say, the mall is going to be even more of a fun place. The center court, a broad octagonal area with mirrored columns at the center of the X, will resound with merry-go-round music as the central fountain (now covered by Santa's castle) is replaced with an 84-year-old carousel.

"It's even bigger than the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier," said Marketing Director Terry Migliaccio.

So what if Puente Hills has an antiseptic look, hard-to-find restrooms, surly teen-agers who often drape themselves over benches on weekends and--as nonplussed Orange County resident Laura DePaola noted--"There's no 'Gap!' "

Puente Hills has been a moneymaker for 16 years, City of Industry officials said. In sales tax revenue, it's "second only to our car dealers," said City Clerk Phil Uriarte.

With The Broadway, JC Penney, Robinson's and Sears as anchors, the mall attracts economy-minded shoppers. It has recently completed the first phase of an ambitious remodeling. There are new escalators in the sitting areas near each of the department stores, new planters, new lights and fresh paint.

But Puente Hills isn't the kind of place where you go to marvel at the captivating ingenuity of American retailers.

"It's just a place to shop," said Carol Murray of Diamond Bar, a dispatcher for Pacific Bell. "It has some stores that I like. It has a big variety."

PUENTE HILLS MALL INDUSTRY * Year opened: 1974

* Retail square footage: 1.2 million

* Anchor stores: The Broadway, JC Penney, Robinson's, Sears

* Number of stores: 185

* Sales tax paid to city in 1989: $1.78 million

* % of city's sales tax revenue--10.5%

* Memorable feature: Big rubber fire engine for kids to climb on.

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