Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Specific Plan Delivers

What Eagle Rock Really Wants

by Joanne Turner
Last October, I attended a presentation by Root Development of a proposal to redevelop the three parcels at the northeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Vista Drive on which Boston Transmission now mostly stands.

Before the 134 freeway was built in the early 1970s, Boston Transmission was a tan-colored biker bar with green shamrocks crudely painted all over the exterior walls and towering-handlebar choppers lined up outside. Outside now are disheveled cars in various states of disrepair behind a cold and uninviting wrought-iron fence. A highly visible location, it is ripe for change.

One of the first things the Root Development presenter said was that the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan clearly outlines what the Eagle Rock community wants. She said the community wants less automotive businesses and that this project would replace one of them.

The existing characterless building, front parking lot and fence would all be demolished, and a mixed-use edifice close to the sidewalk with 10 condominium units above and two retail spaces on the ground floor would be erected in their place. Appropriately, parking would be located in back.

It was music to my ears. What a relief to know that the developer recognized the law and was ready and willing to honor it to further improve Eagle Rock’s business district. At last, there would be no hassles or fights trying to protect the letter and spirit of the law this community volunteered to write over five years, a law that was finally enacted by the city in 1992.

The drawings passed around at the meeting were somewhat simplistic, so I e.mailed the developer asking for copies of the plan specifications. I received the specs a few weeks later, only to see the same simplistic drawings but with all technical site plans and elevations included.

Overall, the project appears to be very well designed, but I wanted more detailed drawings that showed choices of colors and surface materials to see exactly what the building would look like. I called the developer and was told those details had not been finalized. He assured me he would let me know when they were.

Getting our business district on track for revitalization began in earnest in the mid-1980s, when our community lobbied hard to get the city to authorize us to write a law to reverse the ongoing destruction of our historic commercial fabric and bring back the pedestrian by creating attractive, sidewalk-fronted architecture with concealed parking.

Along with some in the business sector who “got it,” we succeeded. The Specific Plan, a relatively new idea at the time, was born and made into law. Fifteen years later, it’s working.

Fatty’s (A Place to Eat) used to be Stapp’s Auto Service. The Coffee Table Bistro was Williamson Auto Supply. Larkin’s (A Contemporary Soul Food Joint) was MR6 Auto Sales, housed in a deteriorating bungalow that has been lovingly restored. SW Hill Country Western Wear was an auto stereo-installation business whose name I can’t recall. Glendale Adventist Therapy & Wellness Center was Montgomery Ward Automotive Center.

What was One Day Paint & Auto Body is where Starbucks now stands (but there is a long, bruising story to this one). Rattan Wicker Tropical Mart, which along with rattan furniture and photocopying services illegally sold auto parts (say what?), is now for lease.

Blas Auto Repair/Auto Glass/Auto Upholstery/Performance Auto . . . pick a name, any name . . . is now The Loft Hair Lounge, Pollen Botanical Design, and Curve Line Space (an art framing business and gallery), and last time I looked there was some square footage still available.

I was recently told that American Tire Depot has been sold to a developer with plans to replace it with another mixed-use project designed, I am sure, to the Specific Plan’s higher standards. The pattern is unmistakable.

Most importantly, formerly empty sidewalks are teeming with people. We now have a diversity of charming businesses to patronize so we spend our dollars in Eagle Rock and not in Old Pasadena. It’s precisely what the Specific Plan intended.

The Root Development representative couldn’t have said it better. It’s what the Eagle Rock community wants.