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Swap Meet Foes Make Push for Store

January 16, 1994|JAKE DOHERTY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In addition to a new supermarket and drugstore, the redesigned Midtown Shopping Center will have a remodeled and renamed swap meet. But to some neighbors, a swap meet by any other name is still a swap meet, and they don't like it.

The 30,000-square-foot swap meet will be renamed the Midtown Shops and redesigned along with other structures at the center owned by Jim Young and the Midtown Shopping Center Associates Assn.

The redesigned center, in the 4700 block of Pico Boulevard, will include an Alpha-Beta supermarket and a Sav-on Drugs store. Construction is scheduled to begin in April.

Representatives of the Wilshire Area Community Coalition and the Southwest Assn. of Neighborhoods told Young that because a swap meet does not cater to the tastes of middle-class residents and generates no sales tax or employment except for vendors, they would like another kind of store, such as a Target or K mart.

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"There's no place for middle-class shoppers to shop in this community, but there are at least five swap meets," said Lauren Schlau, chairwoman of the neighborhood association. "No one seems to think that people will support a middle-class shopping center. We say: 'Build it and we will come.' "

But Young said several chain stores have rejected the site because it is too small.

Moreover, Young said, the swap meet does service a sector of the community and he has a responsibility to the vendors, most of whom are still trying to recover from the 1992 riots. "We have 40-some families in place with bona fide leases, and their livelihood depends upon that," Young said.

Karen Blackwell, a consultant for Young, urged residents to suggest ways in which the swap meet could be made more appealing and could recruit additional vendors from within the community.

Marie Gaines, president of the Wilshire area coalition, said her group will continue to push for an "anchor store that will serve the entire community" to replace the swap meet.

But others at the meeting hoped more energy would be focused on improving the existing operation.

"The Korean vendors would like to be in better surroundings, and they will cooperate with the community if given a chance," said Daniel Oh, a representative of the Korean swap meet vendors. "But don't kick out the 40 tenants. That's a lot of money for the Korean community."

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