Pomona's Antique Row has seen tough times, with longtime shopkeepers along the distinctive two-block portion of East 2nd Street retiring or looking for other employment. But the conversion of historic buildings into residential lofts with ground-floor retail space may be the boon that the antiques dealers are seeking.
The opening of the nearby Montclair Plaza shopping center in 1968 is credited with Antique Row's emergence. The retail mall became an instant magnet for shoppers and caused downtowns to dry up along highways stretching eastward into the Inland Empire. The decline of downtown Pomona continued well into the 1990s.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday December 14, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Pomona club owner -- An article about Pomona's Antique Row area in Sunday's Real Estate section identified the owner of Yesteryears and the Vault as Richard Dahm. The owner is Robert Dahm.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday December 19, 2004 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 3 Features Desk 0 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Pomona club owner -- An article about Pomona's Antique Row area in last Sunday's Real Estate section incorrectly identified the owner of Yesteryears and the Vault as Richard Dahm. The owner is Robert Dahm.
As retailers and shoppers left Pomona, Antique Row and two other cultural identifiers emerged in the downtown area at roughly the same time. These included the Arts Colony, an amalgam of art galleries, restaurants, music clubs and eclectic retail shops begun by artists from nearby Claremont's Pitzer College, and the formation of the locally based Western University of Health Sciences in 1977.
"It was like some weird celestial thing where they all came together at the same time," said Ed Tessier, co-owner of the property management firm JeBed Co.
Pomona recognized these three distinct areas in its downtown area by enshrining them in its zoning and land-use documents adopted a decade ago.
The antiques district spans the 100 and 200 blocks of East 2nd Street and is bounded by Palomares Street on the east and Garey Avenue on the west.
Antiques dealers -- about 450 occupying 23 shops -- do a thriving business with customers who travel from as far away as Asia to shop for such collectibles as old Quaker State oilcans, citrus crate labels, model train sets and Buddha statues.
Recently, a majority of property owners in the downtown area formed a business improvement district. The business owners agreed to an added tax on 200 parcels in the downtown area in exchange for an extra level of public service.
The anticipated revenue for the first year is $630,000. The money will be used for street and sidewalk cleaning, advertising for monthly promotions, graffiti removal and security services.
There is a pocket of opposition to change, however. Richard Dahm, who owns the 2nd Street businesses of Yesteryears, a blues club, and the Vault, another music venue, has filed suit against the city to halt the tax collection, which he claims provides him with no direct benefit.
Good news, bad news
The downtown is enjoying a renaissance as century-old buildings are fixed up, bringing in new retailers, restaurants and loft residents.
Jerry Tessier, president of Arteco Partners, a real estate development company, recently received assistance from Pomona to build seven of 22 lofts planned for the Mayfair Hotel at Garey Avenue and 3rd Street. The nearly century-old Mayfair, once a luxurious hotel serving tourists and Hollywood stars, was closed in 1990 after an electrical fire following years of decline. The building is to include retail space on the street level and live-work lofts on the top floors. Work is expected to be completed next year.
"Since the first legal lofts were converted out of older buildings beginning in 1994, Pomona has really stepped out into its own," said Tessier, who estimates that 1,000 additional units could be developed in downtown Pomona.
But crime tarnishes the area's image. A California Highway Patrol officer was killed in a shooting outside the Pomona Superior Court in April a few blocks west of Antique Row.
Antiques dealers also face unusual problems, including having to compete for business with EBay and other Internet sites where people are buying and selling antiques rather than browsing in shops. Those who do browse may have trouble finding a parking spot, say dealers who complain that Western University students take up spots in front of their businesses. The city has come up with a plan to re-stripe stalls to create more spaces and limit the amount of time people can park in some metered spots.
"We'd love to get a parking structure in the downtown," said dealer Carolyn Hemming at the Pomona Antique Center.
The area got a small boost when the children's movie "The Cat in the Hat" took over the neighborhood for film production two years ago. Called Anville in the movie, 24 storefronts were painted pastel colors. Some remain today.
The area surrounding Antique Row is quickly becoming a mecca for loft rentals by Pitzer students and professionals who want quick access to the new MetroLink station. Loft apartments converted from old commercial buildings are in demand. Lease rates range from $525 to $825 a month for lofts from 750 to 2,000 square feet.
The Pomona Unified School District has more than 34,000 students. Residents in the Antique Row area live within the boundaries for Madison Elementary School, which had a 2004 Academic Performance Index score of 638 on a scale of 1,000. Garey High School scored 558, while Fremont Middle School scored 606.
Sources: www.pusd.org; ci.montclair.ca.us/about/; www.pomonachamber.org; www.ci.pomona.ca.us; www.westernu.edu; www.csupomona.edu/~mreibel/PomonaStudy .