collateral damage caused by redevelopment activity

 progress is costly

progress is costly


As we enter the new year all is not well when we look at redevelopment of strip malls in Orange County. The focus of this report addresses the city of Laguna Hills where the Courtyard Center off La Paz on McIntyre underwent a renovation that was completed last year. 

What brought me to tour the center was learning that the popular Claim Jumper restaurant had closed its doors on January 3rd. Claim Jumper Laguna Hills opened around 1977. I have enjoyed many meals and desserts at this popular anchor of this small center that faces Interstate 5. While I can still enjoy their decadent chocolate Motherlode Cakes and Mud Pies in the Mission Viejo location both restaurants issued pagers to patrons as you waited to be called indicating how popular they were.
Apparently the strip mall owners want to recoup their redevelopment investment and jacked up the lease rate to a point that ended up chasing this long term tenant.
I think the lease was for a period of five years with an option to extend. 

They are not the only merchant to walk after being hit with a 2011 lease increase. Spasso’s Italian Bar and Grill closed their doors on January 8th after 16 years. In addition to pasta, pizza, seafood, steaks and sandwiches they offered dancing and Karaoke singing for their patrons. I am told that they were rather unhappy with this action. Although I have attempted to contact the owners of Spasso’s and will reach out to the Landry’s who own Claim Jumper to discuss what the lease proposal entailed the bottom line is that two of the major tenants are gone. 

So too is the US Taekwondo Center and other’s leaving many spaces vacant. When calling the martial arts center’s listed number you get a recorded message that “the phone was disconnected or is no longer in service.”  So you advertise your business only to be run out of town and are forced to start all over again if in fact you are willing to start all over again in a new location. In our July 2006  meeting with representatives of the GAO in LA, Professor Emeritus Loyola School  of law Gideon Kanner testified that many of these victims do not fully recover a relocation.
Located behind Spasso’s and the US Taekwondo martial arts space is a very nice open area food courtyard with benches. The only problem was that at 10:30 this morning I was the sole person in the area to see it. 

What about the lost revenue stream as these buildings remain empty for a year or more as you look for replacement tenants? I did not take inventory of the other vacancies that exist but these are not alone. 

Ask yourself the $64,000 question. Was it worth it to chase the Claim Jumper and Spasso’s, whose profitable businesses drew patrons from around Orange County? 

Yes, Huell Howser takes us on the road pointing out redevelopment activities but I do not believe that this project was included in his CA redevelopment agency paid tour.

About Larry Gilbert