New Trader Joe's hits a snag

The city has found a few surprises at the Montrose site slated to be a Trader Joe's, but officials say it won't delay the scheduled 2011 opening of the market.

Now a barren patch of dirt across Honolulu Avenue from the Montrose-Crescenta branch library, the site was an auto dealership and service garage for years before the city acquired it in 2002.

City engineers knew there were contaminants in the soil related to the industrial uses, but in recent months they have identified one more patch of tainted soil, as well as a few structures.

Emil Tatevosian, the city's deputy director of redevelopment, said the walls found in the soil appear to be part of the old auto service operation beneath street level.

"Nothing dramatic," he said. "No houses. No dead bodies."

The structures were discovered as crews were cleaning the soil, including some foundation systems left behind from when the dealership was demolished, Tatevosian added.

"It is very typical that when you start digging, you start finding things that hadn't been noticed before," he said.

The city previously estimated that cleanup costs for the site at the western edge of the Montrose Shopping Park district would run about $100,000 before Trader Joe's could begin construction.

The newly discovered contamination, as well as the need to reinforce the back wall of the property near Broadview Drive homes, would add slightly to the cost, Tatevosian said Friday, but he did not have an exact figure.

The city has negotiated with Trader Joe's to share the costs for the additional work on the retaining wall facing Broadview Drive homes, Tatevosian said, adding that he hoped to finalize the deal in the coming weeks and then complete the preparation of the site.

Trader Joe's spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said the company plans to open the store in the summer or fall of 2011.

The chain, which opened its first store in Pasadena in 1967 and now operates more than 350 stores, also has locations in Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Burbank and Eagle Rock.

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