CORONA DEL MAR : Merchants Employ Fragrant Lures

Carnations on Carnation Avenue. Orchids on Orchid Avenue. Begonias on Begonia Avenue.

Flowers are erupting in Corona del Mar, and the Chamber of Commerce is hoping to lure visitors to stop and smell the fragrance-filled blooms and shop at businesses in the area with the colorfully lined streets and median strips.

Chamber members on Tuesday revealed elaborate plans to revitalize the business community's look and ambience to attract tourists and residents alike. "We want people to stop and shop our area," said Royal Radtke, chamber president.

Construction on East Coast Highway and a crippling recession have caused local merchants' earnings to dwindle, according to Radtke. So the chamber, he said, put together a five-year project that will encourage businesses to get involved with their community.

"We want people to turn their backs on the recession, and we have a plan that's workable," said Donald H. Glasgow, chairman of the chamber's revitalization committee.

Included in the plan, that could cost as much as $250,000, are planting flowers on every street with a flower name, hanging five-foot-long flags with pictures of the flowers at the street entrances and adorning medians with dolphin statues or symbols of Corona del Mar landmarks.

Also included in the revitalization are plans to paint murals on walls, undertake some light construction, build a town clock and remodel some buildings to create a "village" with European influences.

The project was started after Corona del Mar businesses reported losing 40% to 60% in sales revenue over the past year, when construction began on East Coast Highway, Radtke said.

One merchant, Toni Van Schultze, owner of Toni's Place, said her hair salon suffered economically during the past year's construction.

"It was very difficult to survive," she said, "but, we all stuck together, and now I can feel business picking up."

Funding for the project will come from landowners and merchants, some of whom have already pledged support, and fund-raisers.

The plan also calls for massive community involvement, said Patty McDonald, a longtime area merchant who is aiding the revitalization effort.

In recent years, the area has seen an influx of Vietnamese-, Latino-, Italian-, Japanese-, Indian- and Iranian-owned businesses. Now, more than 50% of merchants along the two-mile-long stretch of East Coast Highway between MacArthur Boulevard and the Newport Coast development are from those and other cultures.

No one will be left out, Radtke said. The chamber has set up a committee that will try to make them feel part of the "family," he said.

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