After years of slow deterioration to become one of the most prominent eyesores in the city, Palmdale Plaza is finally being razed.
While the bulldozers won’t be moving in for a few more weeks, city officials held a brief ceremony Wednesday to mark the long-awaited destruction of Palmdale’s oldest shopping center.
“When I moved here in 1968, this was the heart of Palmdale, the heart and soul,” Mayor Jim Ledford said of the dilapidated 50-year-old shopping center. “I’m looking forward to bringing it back.”
With sledgehammers painted gold, the five council members Wednesday took whacks at a brick-faced building at the open-air plaza that once housed a dime store. The store, like most in the worn center on Sierra Highway just north of Palmdale Boulevard, has sat vacant and boarded shut for some time.
The only occupied building in the nine-acre center is a former toy store that the city bought several years ago and converted into a community activity center. Three arson fires, in 1992 and 1993, gutted portions of the plaza. The gutted buildings were demolished last year.
For at least three years, Palmdale has wanted to buy the center, located just a few blocks from City Hall in the heart of downtown. Acquiring the center has been a lengthy process, although one council member said the delays were in part caused by the center going into foreclosure and its owners declaring bankruptcy--which allowed the city to save quite a bit of money.
As the economy worsened over the past few years, the value of the center declined. Councilman Jim Root said the city is paying about $3 million less than what was originally asked.
In all, Palmdale will spend about $4.4 million to buy the center, said Carol Seidl, assistant to the city administrator.
The city will pay a Pomona-based firm, Three D Service, up to $310,000 to raze the plaza. The first phases of the demolition, which includes asbestos removal, is expected to take two months. Destruction of the other portions of the center will begin once the city’s purchase of the remaining buildings is final.
While the city had said senior housing might be built on the shopping center property, Councilwoman Teri Jones said Palmdale’s older residents do not support the plan.
A committee studying revitalization of the city’s downtown is developing ideas for the property, Ledford said. Possibilities include replacing the old shopping center with a new one, restaurants, medical facilities and even a sheriff’s station.
“Pretty soon, it will be a bare lot, a plain canvas that will be ready to be painted,” he said.