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COSTA MESA : Triangle Square Has People Talking

Residents are calling City Hall about it. Gossiping about it over lunch. Gawking at it as they drive by.

Triangle Square--that mega-commercial complex plopped in the middle of town and touted as the savior of recession- and construction-strangled downtown--has everyone talking.

Just look at it, people say. You’ll see what we mean.

First the Gap sign went up; then it came down. Alpha Beta announced an August opening, but there wasn’t a shopping cart in sight. And what about that polished white dome rising above 19th Street and Newport Boulevard? It’s being ripped apart only weeks after workers carefully put on the finishing touches.

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“People want to know what is going on, what is going to open, when is it going to open?” said Randy Neilson, owner of Mailboxes Etc., which is across the street from Triangle Square. “People are concerned it was overbuilt, afraid it is going to be a white elephant. Hopefully, it won’t.”

Rich Shapiro, Triangle Square general partner, insists that people shouldn’t be worried. And city officials agree: so far so good.

They are watching the evolution of a commercial center, a complex and not always neat process.

“The recession has made things a little slower. Tenants don’t want to make a mistake so it takes longer to make decisions. Good things take a long time to do,” said Shapiro, noting that construction at the complex was completed about two months ago. Generally, he said, “things are going on schedule; we are very pleased.”

So what about some of those lingering questions?

According to city officials, the complex is now more than 80% leased and will be full by spring.

Some retailers are already making their appearance.

Alpha Beta, the second-largest business, did open on schedule last week. The explanation for the missing shopping carts is quite simple: The store is underground. To get there, shoppers take two escalators into the depths of an underground structure, where they will find a brand-new Alpha Beta, complete with shopping carts and aisles of groceries.

Other major occupants include Bookstar, which is to open in October or November, along with Alta Coffee, Sportsfan Paradise and Chavanti Jewelers. During this time, smaller retailers are also expected to open.

Several major tenants will finish off the project, including Sfuzzi Restaurant, slated for completion in December, followed by the Gap and Niketown in March.

The Gap will go where the original sign was recently taken down, Shapiro said, after some small changes are made.

And about those rumors about the dome being torn down? “It is not a mistake or engineered incorrectly,” said Shapiro, adding that the tenant had very specific architectural requests. “They merchandise with no windows, so we had to change the outside.”

Existing local merchants like Neilson and Marda Kahn of Light Bulbs Unlimited said that they try to track the goings-on at Triangle Square so they can report the news to their customers.

The developers have also put out flyers and met with members of the Downtown Merchant’s Assn., the group founded to help keep businesses going during nearby freeway construction.

So far, they like what they see, Kahn said.

“There has already been a good traffic flow,” she said.

Neilson has also felt the effects, just since the opening of Edwards Theater, the first main tenant in the complex. “I think our business has gone up in the last few months.”


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