City Redevelopment Agency Directors, agree to discussions with principals of a proposed shopping center

November 19, 2008
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council, sitting as Redevelopment Agency Directors, agreed to being “courted” by the principals of a proposed shopping center that would include a boutique grocery store located on a parcels of land located off 10th Street near Railroad Avenue.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe City Council, sitting as Redevelopment Agency Directors, agreed to being “courted” by the principals of a proposed shopping center that would include a boutique grocery store located on a parcels of land located off 10th Street near Railroad Avenue.City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said at the November 3 meeting that if agreed to the exclusive negotiation would be entered into with the development team of Super A Foods, Intertex Properties and developer William Burnett.The center would cover a 6.2-acre area bordered by 10th, Santa Barbara, Santa Paula and 11th streets.The plan includes a 36,000 square foot Super A grocery store and other pads could hold retail/office space and/or a restaurant.The development team would target the property holding a vacant church and packing house - both on the market - as well as several residences and a medical office building that would have to be acquired.Bobkiewicz reminded the Council that the city has been trying to broker a shopping center deal for more than a decade, a process that has seen “fits and starts...”Unique to the development team is their interest in the property as a whole and the proposed project would be high quality to bring “retail economic activity,” that would benefit shoppers as well as city coffers.Burnett told the Council that Bobkiewicz had told him “Sometimes the stars have to be aligned...we have the development, construction and retail experience,” the latter provided by Super A, would be a part owner of the center, not just a tenant, and, “as such, such roots will go deep into the community.”Burnett showed the Council several projects he has developed with architect Bob Lyman.“For us, it’s a very exciting project we all want to be involved in,” despite national economic hard times.The concept for the center, noted Burnett, would utilize courtyards, a fountain, and a “pedestrian friendly” layout that would incorporate a design to reflect Santa Paula’s historical architecture.“We’re very excited about the proposal, a totally different concept for a market,” that he noted would be unique from others in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.Burnett told the Council that Bobkiewicz and city staff “Has been tremendously cooperative, helped us piece this all together...I hope the stars continue to be aligned as we would like to in some small part,” be involved in Santa Paula.
Super A would combine indoor and outdoor shopping in its 36,000 square foot space.Lyman said that the Valencia-based company has developed numerous retail and industrial complexes: “We do almost all our work locally” and the company already frequently uses Santa Paula contractors.Super A Foods President Jim Amen said he was inspired by a market he visited in Seattle, a “Country ranch store, lots of flowers and produce out front to make it festive,” with decorative lighting inside and out.Tying in Santa Paula’s agricultural history would include posting photographs of those locals supplying produce.Amen noted that his family owns 400 acres of farmland in the Fillmore/Piru area and “We have been a big part of the valley for a long time...”Super A, founded by Amen’s father in 1949, has one-dozen family owned stores including a Fillmore location.Vice Mayor Ralph Fernandez asked if the packing house could possibly be utilized for the development and Burnett said no.In fact, the packing house might prove to be the most potentially serious issue if the land has been contaminated as well as building’s lead paint and former use of wax for lemon coating.The Santa Paula store, said Amen, “Will be the crowning achievement in my father’s life...” a life of accomplishment, as Lou Amen is the longtime Chairman of the Board of United Grocers.The new store will “Service the whole area, upscale, downscale, we take care of all customers. It’s a fallacy that Hispanics don’t like beautiful stores” and Amen said the Santa Paula Super A would be “prettier than Gelson’s...”It’s not, noted Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre, that Hispanics don’t like nice stores but rather they don’t often “get them...”In this day and age the factor that separates success from failure is customer service: “We can’t,” noted Amen, “always have the lowest price but we take care of the customers” as well as employees as “We’re a union shop, a lot of our competitors and Spanish retailers are not.”When it came to a timeline Burnett said it could take as long as one year for all the details to be finalized and then construction could take six to nine months.Fernandez asked what would happen if the city does not approve the final plans.“We’re agreeing to date,” said Bobkiewicz. “We can break up,” before any agreement would be finalized.

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