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Challenges Ahead for Community Benefits District

The city has poured in $70,000 for consultants to help start the district, but the biggest hurdle remains: getting property owners to buy into the plan.

When a California Supreme Court decision mandating the dissolution of the state's redevelopment agencies threw a wrench into Arcadia's downtown development plans, city leaders knew they had to try another approach.

In May, the to hire consultants from San Diego-based New City America to help establish a Community Benefits District centered at Huntington Drive and First Avenue. The proposed CBD would encompass properties and businesses along Huntington Drive from Santa Anita Avenue to Second Avenue and along First Avenue from California Street to St. Joseph Street.

City leaders say they hope the revitalization of the downtown hub, newly christened the Arcadia Towne Center, will be complete in time for the future Gold Line Station to open in 2015.

"Arcadia needs a downtown," Councilman Peter Amundson said. "[The council] wants to do what we can to help support [the CBD].

But the biggest hurdle remains: Getting local business and property owners on board.

"The issue is they've never worked together as a group," New City America President Marco Li Mandri said. "Everybody does not have a common vision. The first step is to get everybody together to decide, 'Where is this downtown going?'"

Thirty percent of property owners within the proposed district must sign a petition in support of it before the city can call for a formal election. Then, 51 percent of property owners must vote in favor of the CBD for it to become established.

The Arcadia Towne Center Business Association has been and will continue working closely with the New City America consultants to help gather momentum for the CBD.

"Over the next several months, ATCBA will be working...to create a clear message about the benefits of creating a fee for property owners in the area to help fund marketing and improvement efforts to revitalize the area and entice riders of the Gold Line, as well as local residents, to walk around the area and solicit the businesses there—all of which would improve property values," Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Scott Hettrick said.

Fees will be based on the benefit received by the property owner from the marketing and improvement efforts. Among other factors will be the size of the property lot, the size of building on the lot, and the type of use of the property, he added.

But CBD co-ordinators must still come up with a concrete plan for the downtown development and revitalization.

"We're still in the organizing phase, ATCBA Secretary/Treasurer April Verlato said.

Li Mandri said he envisions a vibrant, walkable downtown with several restaurants. It would look much like the famous San Diego enclave of Little Italy, which he also helped develop. 

"[The Towne Center] should be like a living room in...that people will go there, not for any particular reason, but just go there to go there."

Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Li Mandri says he feel optimistic that Arcadia will establish a CBD that will revitalize the city's downtown.

"You need to have people who are inspired to really build that vision. You need to have a budget that generates enough revenue to make an impact, but that's not an unrealistic burden on property owners and business owners. You need good management..of that revenue," he said. "All these elements are there in Arcadia. It's really a question of igniting all those elements."

Marc Carlson January 24, 2013 at 07:59 PM
They can pour all the money they want into that area, but nothing will change, even with the train coming through, unless there are pedestrian-friendly businesses in the area, of which there are very few now.
Scott Hettrick January 26, 2013 at 04:28 AM
You're right Marc, and that's a prime area of focus for the new Business Association, to attract new and exciting entertainment and retail businesses to the area. Let is know what you would like to see there to entice you to the area.

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