By Mary O’KEEFE
On Tuesday morning business owners and residents gathered at PDC [Professional Development Center] in Montrose to discuss the future of their town.
Montrose Vision 20/20 was a response by the City of Glendale to requests for help from business owners who wanted to drive more business to the Montrose Shopping Park. A survey was circulated that asked questions about what was good, bad and needed improvement within the shopping park. Over 500 people responded to the survey and those results were shared and discussed at the Tuesday morning meeting.
Jennifer McLain, principal economic development officer at the city, led the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation. The economic team’s objective was to gather comments from the public and then develop a plan to bring more business into Montrose while sustaining the quaint feel of the town as the shopping park was brought into the future.
The concerns of the business owners were first outlined. They included an increase in storefront rentals, the proliferation of national tenants, an overabundance of restaurants, lack of retail or “the right type of retail,” a change in consumers’ behavior and changes in technology.
“[In the] survey ‘change’ was written more than 20 times,” McLean said.
The overall comments leaned toward the public not wanting “change” in Montrose.
“Love that you want to make it a better place. Be careful, in that well-intentioned effort, not to ruin it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was one comment.
“Montrose is great the way it is. Please don’t try to turn it into another downtown Glendale. It could be improved by providing more green space and park-like areas (even just benches or a pocket park along Honolulu),” was another comment.
Throughout, when it came to change the survey clearly showed that Montrose Shopping Park was loved for its hometown feel and safety. National chains did not seem to be something that would be approved by the public; however, better parking and new garbage cans did seem to be desired.
Some other suggestions included a having trolley that goes along Honolulu Avenue, putting fresh paint on light poles, increasing parking without multi-level lots and adding murals on external buildings that are barren.
The survey did include comments on the type of stores and restaurants that line Honolulu Avenue. The need was voiced for more retail – trendy boutiques – and “no more salons or beauty parlors.”
There seems to be a desire for shops to stay open later and having more nightlife for young adults.
For what threatens Montrose, the survey cited too many of one type of business (not enough mix) at 30.8% of those surveyed; 23.1% stated the threat of small businesses being pushed out, 17.9% stated the threat of losing its unique character, 16.7% thought the biggest threat lies in increased rental prices and 11.5% had a variety of other issues.
“Montrose has tremendous potential for the city as a destination within L.A.; however, most businesses are dead …They are not engaged with pop culture … Honestly, Montrose is ‘quaint and quiet’ but those two terms are closely synonymous with dead …” stated another response.
One of the comments made by both Montrose Shopping Park Assn. member and owner of Grayson’s Tune Town concerned the City of Glendale and its permitting and planning department.
“I want [businesses] to follow the [permitting requirements], but will the city help business owners?” asked Ken Grayson.
Many times businesses are overwhelmed by the city’s extensive requirements, Grayson added.
MSPA President Andre Ordubegian echoed Grayson’s concern adding he has spoken to business owners who wanted to move to Montrose but because of requirements by the city decided not to open their businesses in the shopping park.
“Can the city help? The [planning department] gives the business [requirements] and then just says, ‘Go do it.’ There seems to be more help for [national chains],” he said.
McLain asked both Grayson and Ordubegian to put those specific suggestions on pages that had been hung throughout the room for opinions to be written.
How to keep Montrose quaint, engage in pop culture, control rent increases, be friendly, feature unique mom and pop businesses with easy parking and clean sidewalks was tasked to the audience at the end of the presentation.
The information gathered will be organized by the Glendale Economic Development department, which will then return to the group with a five-year strategic business plan.