Need for Jobs Spurs Aid to Retail Plaza : Major Mall Emerges from Redevelopment of South Bay Center

Times Staff Writer

The first for RTKL. The last for UDAG.

These could both fit the Galleria, a $70-million shopping complex that will mark its grand opening Monday at Hawthorne and Artesia boulevards in Redondo Beach.

No doubt it's the first Southern California project for RTKL, an architectural firm headquartered in Baltimore. No question the complex is dramatic with its vaulted skylight running the length of the mall--more than 600 linear feet; its three-story waterfall dropping from both the second and third levels into a pool below; its glass elevator, numerous escalators, Italian tile floors with marble accents and generous interior landscaping.

As for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers Urban Development Action Grants (UDAG), it may be the last project of its kind--an $8-million grant to foster jobs for neighboring Lawndale residents.

The redevelopment project is in marked contrast with the 28-year-old South Bay Center it replaces.

It's bigger, 944,000 square feet, instead of 800,000.

It has more department stores (a new 158,444-square-foot Nordstrom; a new 84,000-square-foot Mervyn's, and a 351,460-square-foot May Co. that underwent remodeling. In addition, 120,000 square feet of space has been allocated for a fourth department store to be built.

It's also inside instead of out. The department stores and 150 new fashion and specialty stores are situated in a three-level, enclosed shopping arcade. The two-level May Co. was the only department store and the tallest structure in the South Bay Center, and was surrounded by a few fashion, fabric and other outlets, all reached from the outdoors.

There were places like the five-and-dime with its dingy stairway and soda fountain, where a grilled cheese and a Coke was about all a hungry shopper in a hurry could get. Now there are places like the Espresso Bar with its mocha coffee, cappuccino, fruit drinks and light pastries--all just a few steps away from the shoe department on the first floor of Nordstrom.

And there are several new restaurants, besides some fast-food stands on the third floor in an area known as Picnic Place. Among the restaurants are the Red Robin for gourmet hamburgers, South Street Deli, and Coho's Grill for fish dishes. All three have full bars.

Lawndale Across the Street

With 1,200 employees, the Galleria will also have more personnel than the South Bay Center, which had a total of 521 people on the payroll, including 225 at the May Co. The number of jobs there now relates to UDAG.

The city of Lawndale, across Artesia Boulevard from the center, is providing $8 million of federal funds to help finance construction of the Galleria, a project of Forest City Development of Cleveland. Redondo Beach, where the Galleria is located, lacks the low-income areas necessary to qualify for the grant.

Deborah Gore Dean, executive assistant to the secretary of HUD, describes Lawndale as a "distressed" or "impacted" city. "It has more poor people and older housing (than Redondo Beach)," she explained. "So Redondo Beach was not eligible to apply for UDAG, but Lawndale was." (Lawndale's federal funds will be paid back to the city by the developers over 30 years with 6% interest.)

Lawndale applied, and Dean's department approved the loan with the stipulation that half of the jobs at the Galleria would be filled by Lawndale residents.

Trades Look Rosy

It's nothing new. UDAG has been around for seven years, and cities have been working out deals like this for almost as long, but the Galleria may be one of the last, if not the last, examples of such a trade, Dean said, "because we are establishing standards to prevent cities from borrowing from UDAG to get jobs from other cities."

On the surface, the trades look rosy. Fredrick K. Stillions, public affairs officer for HUD's Los Angeles office, said, "UDAG made that thing (the Galleria) float." Dean added, "That shopping center would not exist if there were not a need for jobs among the people in Lawndale."

Yet, the trade represents a type of "steering," Stillions said, adding with a smile, "Of course, there is nothing specifically in the civil-rights code about discrimination against Redondo Beach residents." Even so, a job hunter who is turned down merely because he or she does not live in Lawndale could make an issue of it by filing an administrative complaint with HUD's community planning and development division or a discrimination complaint with the state Department of Employment.

A 'Greater Purpose'

Besides this, there is no guarantee that half of the jobs will be filled by Lawndale residents. The city of Lawndale and the developer simply promised HUD to make a "good-faith effort," which to date appears to be what is happening.

Still another weakness in the trade practice involving UDAGs is what may occur over time. As there are job turnovers, residential requirements tend to be forgotten, Dean said. "The only way we can be pretty sure that a center, say in Lawndale, hires from Lawndale is if the center is in Lawndale."

Otherwise, the federal government isn't interested, she emphasized, "because the government must have a greater purpose than spending a dollar."

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