approve the project. Mayor Dave Garofalo was absent during the vote
because of a potential conflict of interest.
Acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, the council also directed
the staff to begin buyout and relocation negotiations for the two stores.
The approval includes agreements with the Irvine-based developer
Ezralow Retail Properties LLC to turn the defunct mall into an
Italian-style village, sporting high-end restaurants and a 22-screen
The 58-acre mall, near Edinger Avenue and Beach Boulevard, is more
than 30 years old and has experienced a continual decline in performance
since 1982, city officials said, adding that its location has been
designated for redevelopment for the last 16 years. It will be razed,
with construction set to begin early next year, officials said.
The grand opening of The Crossings at Huntington, an estimated
$150-million commercial endeavor, is expected by April 2002.
"That mall's physical appearance does little to attract consumers into
Huntington Beach," resident Jim Upp said. "But this project will provide
something we've always needed here -- a gateway to the city."
Others are not so supportive.
"We have a suit pending against Ezralow on breach of contract
concerning a 30-year lease we signed in 1995 when we came to the mall,"
said Aviv Tuchman, Burlington's attorney. "And we're hoping to have a
judge review this new council decision in court as well."
Montgomery Ward officials expressed similar concerns.
"We're not against redeveloping the center," said Phillip Schwartze, a
planning consultant with the retailer, "but Wards is a $3-billion-a-year
company, not some little guy to be taken advantage of."
Representatives from Burlington and Montgomery Ward assured the
council that each company would dedicate millions to revamp their stores
if they were allowed to stay.
But council members maintained that the goal of redevelopment was to
create a completely new type of shopping experience and even agreed to
pay Ezralow $16.75 million over 20 years, a share from the increased
property and sales taxes created by The Crossings, to offset construction
costs after the project is complete.
"I think the most telling thing about this project is that we have
lost the battle of malls," said Councilman Ralph Bauer, adding that Costa
Mesa's South Coast Plaza and the Westminster Mall have taken business
away from the Huntington Center for years.