By Mary O’KEEFE
Members of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. business community went on a field trip on Monday as part of the discussion for Montrose Vision 20/20.
From its conception, Montrose Vision 20/20 has been on a fact-finding mission. The merchants had requested the city’s help in creating more business in Montrose, but not just any business – they wanted the type that would fit in with the unique shopping area.
One of the first steps in this project was to reach out to business owners and community members to ask their opinions of what a five-year business plan would look like for Montrose. The idea was to align the Montrose Vision 20/20 plan with the North Glendale Community Plan.
After the data was collected, the findings were presented at a Montrose Shopping Park Assn. meeting. Jennifer McLain, principal economic development officer with the City of Glendale, discussed the concerns of the merchants from increased rent for storefront rentals to an overabundance of restaurants.
Comments from residents tended to keeping Montrose the same, for the most part.
At the end of that April meeting those in attendance were asked to prioritize their concerns or opinions. The city representatives would then gather that information and create a presentation that honed the concerns even further than the first round.
Monday’s outing was another step in the Vision 20/20 exploration process. The goal was to find out what other small towns are doing to bring business in, then take that information and fold it into the plan as it pertains to Montrose.
The group traveled to Claremont, Covina and Monrovia. In Claremont the group met with Brian Desatnik, director of Community Development.
Claremont has a downtown area lined with buildings that look as if they were built in the late ’60s/early ’70s; however, this was a design that was shepherded by the city. About 10 years ago, the area had several older abandoned buildings, including packinghouses and a large ice plant.
“Pretty much all of the buildings went out of business in the early 1970s,” Desatnik said.
The city, using redevelopment funds, bought those abandoned buildings, knocked them down and turned to developers to rebuild.
“It was a redevelopment project. We were able to buy all the land, assemble it and sell it to developers, but when we sold it we entered into agreements. We told them we wanted a small hotel and a movie theater,” Desatnik said.
The City of Claremont also stipulated it wanted smaller projects or rental spaces, and buildings to match the style of the older buildings that already existed.
The result is a town that looks like it has been there for years. There are small mom-and-pop businesses in one area and larger restaurants in other parts of the city.
The Montrose group was interested in how Claremont attracted more nightlife to the area, an interest shown by some Vision 20/20 respondents.
“When I first came here (10 years ago), the sidewalks rolled up [early],” Desatnik said.
He said businesses started staying open later, which attracted shoppers, and those that closed earlier felt the competition spurred them to stay open later. The city also helped fund music throughout the shopping area on Friday nights. About six colleges and people who work at those facilities help support the area surround Claremont.
Parent weekends are a busy time in town.
Gigi Garcia, owner of It Takes a Village children’s clothing shop and a member of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. board of directors, asked Desatnik how the city attracts new business.
The city pays a consultant to reach out to companies, including new start-ups and businesses looking to expand.
The Montrose group then traveled to Covina and Monrovia. The issues that these cities faced seemed to mirror those of Montrose. Many restaurants were moving in as retail businesses closed, convincing retailers to keep their doors open later in the evening while balancing the small town feel to keep the “regulars” while updating to attract new businesses and shoppers.
In Monrovia the group met with Pam Fitzpatrick, owner of Dollmakers’ Kattywompus. They found that they had a lot in common with her as a business owner. Fitzpatrick shared issues about staying open late, how to work with an active farmer’s market and volunteering hours to put on events that bring people to the town.
The group took note of everything from benches to water features and landscaping that encompassed drought-resistant plants.
The information gathered during the field trip will be included in the overall presentation of the Montrose Vision 20/20 plan.