Kings Plaza Redeveloper Chosen

Times Staff Writer

The Board of City Directors voted Monday to begin exclusive negotiations with Pasadena Commercial Redevelopment Co. to revitalize an abandoned shopping center in the city's troubled northwest section.

The board chose the company, a partnership of Watt Commercial Properties and developers Danny Bakewell and Lonnie Bunkley, despite objections from nearby business owners who favored a plan submitted by Walter Sterns, who owns half the property, and Dennis Gertmenian. The remaining half of the 5.4-acre site is owned by the city.

Developers Gertmenian and Sterns submitted a $4.1-million plan that proposed relocating Ready Pac Produce and Pasadena Produce onto the site, a move they said would provide an estimated 500 jobs. Douglas Kosobayashi, speaking on behalf of Pasadena Works West, an organization of 33 businesses in the northwest area, said Monday that his group supported the plan because "it's important that we see (that) people in the northwest area have greater opportunity for jobs."

The board voted against the Gertmenian-Sterns plan on the recommendation of city staff, who said the proposal violated zoning and redevelopment regulations and that the developers' projected costs and employment figures may not be accurate.

Pasadena Commercial Redevelopment Co. submitted a $4.4 million plan that proposed using the site for light industrial and commercial use. It calls for Castle Press, a printing company located near the site, to move into the plaza as the anchor tenant, and for small retail and commercial businesses to occupy the rest of the center. The plan would provide an estimated 267 jobs. The city would loan the developers up to $1.33 million to acquire the property, an amount that is to be repaid by the developers over an extended period.

Although the city has accepted the company, its proposal can be changed during the 60-day exclusive negotiating period that the board approved on Monday.

What to do with Kings Plaza, located across the street from a low-income housing project at 1222 N. Fair Oaks Ave., has long troubled the board. Abandoned since 1980, when Boys Market pulled up stakes after being plagued by theft, sniper fire and gang fights, the 5.4-acre site is viewed by city officials as a crucial element in revitalizing northwest Pasadena, where crime and unemployment rates are the highest in the city.

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