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O.C.'s Last Drive-In Giving Way to New Featured Attraction: Wal-Mart

March 01, 1997|JOHN POPE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WESTMINSTER — City officials have began clearing the way for demolition of Orange County's last functional drive-in and the subsequent construction of a retail shopping center anchored by what could become the county's eighth Wal-Mart store.

Los Angeles-based Pacific Theaters, which owns the historic Hi-Way 39 drive-in at Beach Boulevard and Trask Avenue, won Westminster Planning Commission approval for construction of a center that would include two more retailers, a gas station and a fast-food restaurant.

In recent years, drive-in sites in La Habra, Fullerton and Orange have closed to make way for more lucrative retail projects, leaving Hi-Way 39 as the last such theater in Orange County.

Hi-Way 39 opened in 1955 with one screen. It added four more in the 1970s. Talk of converting the theater to a more profitable use began as early as 1990, but nothing came of the discussions until recently, city officials said.

Westminster officials expect the retail center to generate $50,000 a year in sales tax revenue.

Wal-Mart has opened stores in Anaheim and Laguna Niguel. Stores also are planned for Brea, Orange, Santa Ana, Westminster and San Clemente.

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