Triangle Square changes may be on horizon

Lolita Harper

COSTA MESA -- The outgoing marketing director of Triangle Square said

Friday that her contract was terminated becausethe center is scheduled

for drastic redevelopment.

Cori Abbs, who served as the marketing director for three months, said

her contract was ended because the center would not need marketing

because of massive construction.

"Everything was put on hold, and then the marketing budget was cut

completely," Abbs said.

Wendy Shih, assistant planner for Costa Mesa, said center managers

have not filed for any redevelopment permits but have inquired about

small-scope changes that might be made. Specifically, center management

has asked about live entertainment and restaurants with liquor licenses

for the top floor, she said. Either would require a conditional-use

permit.

Abbs' departure came on the heels of announcements that tenants Whole

Foods and Johnny Rockets would leave the center. Most recently, Sunglass

Hut drew its shades on the third floor and left. Whole Foods will close

in April.

"Basically, all that is left on that third floor is Yardhouse," said

Planning Commissioner Bill Perkins, who has been involved in turning the

center around and worked closely with Abbs on possible ideas for the

center.

While anchored by big-name stores such as Niketown, Barnes & Noble and

Virgin Megastore, Triangle Square has struggled to retain tenants during

its nine-year existence. Since it opened in 1992, the center has lost

other major tenants, such as a Ralphs grocery store and Sfuzzi

restaurant.

The center boasts a great location -- on Newport Boulevard with direct

freeway access -- and 192,000 square feet of leasable space, but now has

seven vacancies.

Triangle Square has also been unable to retain marketing directors.

Abbs received a letter of termination Dec. 13, stating her one-year

contract would end early on Dec. 23. Her service agreement was intended

to last through September but could be canceled at any time, she said.

She is the sixth marketing director at the struggling center in about

four years. Each has been hired on a contract basis.

"In the three years I've been here, I've seen four come and go, so

maybe it's not too abnormal," Property Manager Tom Estes said.

Estes would not comment on why Abbs' contract was terminated but said

the center would not seek to replace her any time soon. Estes, who has

his hands full trying to find tenants for the handful of open

storefronts, said marketing responsibilities would fall to him in the

meantime.

Frustrated and unemployed, Abbs said her hands were tied at the center

because CGM Management, the corporation overseeing Triangle Square, was

constantly trying to cut corners.

"You have to spend money to make things happen," Abbs said.

Officials at CGM Management, based in Temple City, were unavailable

for comment Friday.

Perkins said the center's problems run far deeper than a lack of

marketing. The planning commissioner said the root of the troubles is in

poor management at the corporate level.

"Tom [Estes] does a great job over there, and he tries his hardest to

get tenants in there. But corporate has no defined vision for the center,

so it makes it impossible to keep it alive," Perkins said.

The former marketing director agreed.

"I was never given a goal or direction. How can you come up with a

marketing strategy if you don't even know what direction the center is

going in? I have to know the product I'm marketing," Abbs said.

* Lolita Harper covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)

574-4275 or by e-mail at o7 lolita.harper@latimes.comf7 .

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