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HUNTINGTON PARK : Newberry Building OK for 9 Tenants

April 18, 1993|DUKE HELFAND

The Planning Commission will allow retail outlets to operate in the closed J. J. Newberry building in the central business district, but it capped the number of vendors at the site.

The commission ruled that the Pacific Boulevard store is not governed by a December, 1986, city law that prohibits mini-malls with five or more tenants in the business district. But commissioners rejected a request to allow 35 vendors at the site, deciding instead to allow a maximum of nine outlets--the same number that existed when J. J. Newberry was operating.

Local business leaders applauded the limit, saying a higher number would pose unfair competition to nearby retailers. Critics also contended that more tenants would create parking problems.

"To us, this is an acceptable resolution," said Mary Carmen Medrano, who owns 25-year-old Medrano Jewelers, next to the site. "Limiting the number to nine was realistic."

Medrano was among more than 30 Pacific Boulevard business and property owners who attended the three-hour hearing earlier this month. Many opponents of the project held signs that read, "No Mini-Mall or Swap Meet."

The 28,000-square-foot store had been operated under the J. J. Newberry name since 1981. Nine small businesses, including a shoe store and a camera shop, rented space at the site, one of the largest retail outlets in the downtown area. The store closed in January after its backers filed for bankruptcy, city officials said.

John Connolly, an attorney representing Jung H. Shin, the leaseholder, questioned whether the venture will be profitable with just nine outlets.

"This is not what we wanted, clearly," Connolly said after the meeting. "The city didn't limit J. J. Newberry in any way. They (board members) said, 'You can do business here but you're limited in how much.' "

Connolly argued that the store should only be restricted from increasing total square footage or floor area.

The attorney declined to comment on a timeline for remodeling and opening the store.

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