By Mary O’KEEFE
The Montrose Trader Joe’s construction seemed to have started then stalled but looks can be deceiving.
“The work everyone was seeing was not Trader Joe’s breaking ground but our city workers doing what they were contractually supposed to do,” said Glendale City Councilmember John Drayman.
Trader Joe’s that has been approved by the city to be built at 2448 Honolulu Ave. has yet to officially start its construction. The bulldozers that had been rolling on the location were city workers cleaning up the property.
For years the location was the site of a car dealership that included vehicle repairs. Drayman said the city workers knew there would be some contamination of soil because of the former occupant.
“We were cleaning it up and also found some structures underground that had to be evacuated,” he said.
Contrary to rumor the underground structures found were not rooms with skeletons but septic tanks. Workers took out the blacktop, cleaned the soil, excavated the tanks and began grading the property. But as they were excavating they found something they had not expected.
“We discovered there were some metal rods on the retaining wall at the south end of the property. The wall between where Trader Joe’s and residents of Sparr Heights,” Drayman said.
What looked like a solid wall was actually several walls melded together. The wall was connected to giant blocks of concrete buried in the ground, a practice common in the past but not structurally acceptable by today’s standards, Drayman said.
After this discovery the city was faced with two main issues,
“How to fix it from an engineering stand point in the most economic way and who was going to pay for it,” Drayman said.
City officials determined they would have to cover the cost as part of the property preparation. The first estimates were anywhere between a half and three-quarter million dollars, money that was going to be difficult for the city to come up with in these tight economic times.
“Trader Joe’s [representatives] agreed to front he money and deduct it from the lease,” he said.
However engineers found that the cost to repair was not going to be as expensive as first thought.
“We started yesterday repairing the wall,” said Elena Bolbolian, project manager for the Glendale redevelopment office.
Her office had received bids and now has a construction company working to complete the preparation process.
“The first order of [business] is to fix the wall then the store can begin to build,” she said.
The work on the wall and the beginning of Trader Joe’s construction is scheduled sometime in February or March, 2011.
“Trader Joe’s is still on schedule to be open in October or November of 2011,” Bolbolian said.