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WILSHIRE CORRIDOR : Aid Offered to Firms Affected by Subway

June 20, 1993|JAKE DOHERTY

The first loans from a long-awaited program for business and property owners who have suffered economic losses from Red Line subway construction should be disbursed by the end of the month, a transit official said.

In April, the $25-million Construction Enhancement Loan Program was approved by the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has been negotiating with banks to administer the loan program, said Joya De Foor of the transit authority's treasury department.

The first bank selected, East-West Federal Bank in San Marino, began taking applications last month for loans of up to $50,000 for small businesses and up to $1 million for property owners.

The transit authority is talking with other banks that will make loans of up to $300,000 to small businesses and up to $1 million for property owners.

There have been complaints that the loan program is long overdue; many stores and restaurants on Wilshire Boulevard between Normandie and Western avenues have reported business losses of up to 50%, and others have closed since Red Line construction began in 1991. The line is scheduled to open in 1996.

The program is intended to keep businesses open by providing temporary working capital and money for improvements during construction "so they can experience the benefits of the Red Line when it opens," said Robert Mooney, a transit authority public affairs officer.

Robert McDermott, president of the Wilshire Chamber of Commerce, applauded the loan program for providing some relief from what he called a "necessary inconvenience."

But Wayne Ratkovich, president of the Ratkovich Co., a real estate development company, expressed concern about the "murkiness" of the terms and conditions under which the loans will be offered. He said requiring appraisals as part of loan applications does not make sense for properties already damaged economically by construction. "It's unclear that this program is realistic," he said.

Ratkovich said he and other affected property owners are talking with bank and transit officials in an effort to work out these issues.

Loan program information: Gerald Borup at East-West Federal Bank, (818) 799-5700.

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