Work is scheduled to begin next month on a $2-million renewal of the aging downtown San Fernando shopping district.
The City Council approved Monday a $675,000 contract to begin the first of a three-phase project that eventually will unite the mishmash of bridal shops, furniture, jewelry and clothing stores in a "mission-style" architectural theme.
The first phase, paid for with city redevelopment money, will aim at generally sprucing up the mall area, a 45-acre storefront shopping district centered on San Fernando Road between San Fernando Mission and Brand boulevards.
New landscaping will be installed, including sidewalk planters and trees, along with park benches and trash cans. Entrance signs will be rebuilt and sidewalks repaved.
"This is just the beginning of changing the whole look of the mall," said City Administrator Donald E. Penman.
The area has deteriorated since the early 1970s, when enclosed shopping malls began luring more and more shoppers away from the outdoor commercial strips. A city report described the San Fernando center as leaving a poor "visual impression" because of graffiti-marred walls, unkempt parking lots and planters and confusing signs.
"It's been unfortunate for the area because people judge a book by its cover," said Dennis Levine, owner of a San Fernando mall area clothing store. "But it's nice to see that this project is finally going to happen."
The design concept for the redevelopment was approved last year as a means to attract more shoppers and new businesses to the area.
The contract for the first part of the work was awarded to Moulder Bros. General Contractors of Glendale. The company was the only one to submit a proposal to the city after a three-week bidding period.
Moulder has landscaped the Promenade Shopping Center in Woodland Hills, the Sepulveda Water Reclamation Plant and the Bear Country attraction at Disneyland.
The City Council voted 4 to 1 to award the contract to Moulder rather than to put the job out to bid again in hopes of obtaining a lower price.
"This firm comes with excellent references and is capable of doing a first-rate job for us," said Councilman Roy Richardson. "This project has been dragging on, and there is no guarantee we will get it for less."
Weather permitting, the project will be completed in early May, Penman said.
Future phases, yet to be approved, will include entry plazas, trellised walkways and improved parking lots. City officials intend to offer low-interest loans to merchants to build new facades in keeping with a mission theme.