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Old Town Tustin Business District

May 28, 1997|JOHN POPE

In an era when many old shopping districts have been replaced by modern, often homogenous strip malls, the Old Town Tustin business district offers a diverse mix of merchants, as well as architecture dating back to the late 1800s.

"Where else can you find a furrier next to a bar?" City Councilwoman Tracy Wills Worley asked.

As noted by UC Irvine and the Urban Design Committee, many residents say that Old Town provides the community with "a historic and symbolic downtown."

"It was the center of town from the beginning, about 1870," said Carol Jordan, a longtime resident who has written a book about Tustin history. "It's an example of the old-style downtowns that are disappearing as we get more and more shopping centers."

Indeed, many business owners in Old Town who survived the recent recession have been hurt by larger, national retail stores.

Such is the case of Tustin Hardware, whose owners announced that they will close next month after 87 years on Main Street.

"It's a real shame," Worley said. "They just couldn't compete with Home Depot."

However, the city and the newly formed Downtown Business Assn. are planning to revitalize the area and attract new business with an aggressive marketing campaign.

Late last year, the City Council allocated $10,000 to the group, which enabled it to hire a marketing consultant. Also, as an incentive for business owners to upgrade facilities, the city agreed to waive permit fees for new construction projects valued up to $85,000.

Officials said they see the moves as steps toward the revitalization of downtown, an area bounded roughly by the Santa Ana and Costa Mesa freeways, Newport Avenue and 1st Street.

Councilman Jim Potts said the council will consider giving the business association a loan at a future date. "We will reap the benefits tenfold," he said.

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