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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY
/ LEO SMITH

Mall Hopes to Cultivate Business With New Park-Like Setting

June 24, 1997|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With renovation plans that call for a clock tower, gazebo, fountains, bougainvillea, benches and trellises, the Camarillo Plaza shopping center could begin to look more like a park than a place of commerce.

And that's just fine with officials at Humax West, the Marina del Rey management company that for the last eight years has owned and operated the 75,000-square-foot center on Daily Drive.

"Shopping centers exist to serve the community, and that's what we want to do," said Donna Kalinske, a marketing coordinator for Humax. "I really think sometimes that has been forgotten. Sometimes owners don't really think in those terms."

The 10-year-old plaza is occupied by 16 businesses, including a Prudential-Jon Douglas Co. real estate office, a Baja Fresh, Photography by Marilyn and a Sizzler restaurant. The newest tenant is The Club fitness center.

Renovations have been approved by the city, and the changes could be in place within several months.

Along with the park-like features, Humax officials plan to improve the plaza's lighting, lay tiles painted by local children and create a changing "Star of the Month" photo display honoring a Camarillo resident who has made a significant contribution to the community.

Kalinske said Humax also would like Camarillo Plaza to host arts and crafts fairs and other special events.

"There really is no place for the community to gather in Camarillo, to come and relax and enjoy each other," Kalinske said. "We want to be that place."

And if the changes mean more customer traffic and increased shopping at the center, that's not such a bad thing.

"There was no life in the center," Kalinske said. "We want to bring life, we want to bring the community in, and we feel if we bring the community in, the tenants will follow."

Camarillo Plaza currently is 73% filled, Kalinske said, adding that several prospective tenants have expressed interest in some of the vacant space over the last couple of weeks.

That is a good sign for folks such as Rick Honnicutt, owner of All City Software. As one of Camarillo Plaza's original tenants, Honnicutt has seen the center go through its ups and downs.

"The center has been kind of vacant and quiet the last five years, and any form of generating traffic helps," Honnicutt said. "Early on it was probably 80% to 90% filled. Then the shopping center was sold and went down to less than 50%. Spending money on the center, dressing it up and trying to make it more of an attraction seems to be working. We're already getting more interest."

Carol Nordahl, executive director of the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, said she is looking forward to seeing Camarillo Plaza's new look.

"People will think it's a new place even though all they are doing is some window dressing," she said. "It will be warm and inviting. I think it will increase the desire of businesses to locate there."

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