Pico Rivera Plaza was the city’s first major shopping center, built after the local Redevelopment Agency bought and razed a ragtag collection of small businesses and homes on a 23-acre patch of land at the corner of Whittier and Rosemead boulevards.
It marked the beginning of this small city’s efforts to spruce up a commercial area described by local officials as “junk” and “dismal.” And while it ranks near the bottom of the county’s list of malls in terms of total retail sales, the plaza was considered enough of a success that developers have since built the slightly smaller Crossroads Plaza across the street and some strip centers nearby.
“It’s been a proven success for the Redevelopment Agency and has stimulated further retail development along Whittier Boulevard,” said David A. Caretto, Pico Rivera’s assistant city manager.
Owned by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., Pico Rivera Plaza is a neatly maintained outdoor complex of red tile roofs and rough stucco. It was remodeled about three years ago, and a landscaped plaza area was added. The area includes a brick stage for community events such as Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
It is an unpretentious neighborhood center catering to local residents, who have an estimated average household income of $34,500. There is the usual assortment of inexpensive chain stores such as Montgomery Ward and Thom McAn Shoe, along with small, independently owned places such as a Mexican restaurant and a video shop, where they will give you a personal critique of the movie you are renting.
Despite the closeness of Crossroads, which has a Home Depot and Albertson’s, city officials say the mix of stores is different enough so that the new mall has not hurt sales at the city’s senior shopping center.
“The shoppers are different and they come for different things,” Caretto said.
PICO RIVERA PLAZA, PICO RIVERA * Year opened: 1980
* Retail square footage: 286,000
* Anchor stores: Montgomery Ward, Thrifty Drug, Alpha Beta
* Number of stores: 38
* 1989 sales tax paid to city: Estimated $308,000
* % of city’s total sales tax revenue--5%
* Most memorable feature: Landscaped outdoor brick plaza with stage.