Avant Garde Recommending an Overhaul of “Business as Usual” Attitude

The consultant’s plan involves intensive code enforcement, the façade improvement program, a farmers’ market and public participation.

Written by RANDY SHUN / Published December 2, 2009 (ONLINE ONLY)

A consultant has recommended city officials to adopt its proposal to revitalize the local economy.

Avant Garde, an economic development and redevelopment consulting firm hired in April, spoke on Tuesday, July 21, 2009, before members of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and residents.

Program director Robert Paz and his partner Benjamin Martinez gave two PowerPoint presentations outlining their ideas.

The consultant’s plan includes intensive code enforcement, a revised façade improvement program policy, a Temple City Chamber of Commerce-sponsored farmers’ market, and city-wide town hall meetings.

According to Paz, the number one area of opportunity is the Alpha Beta site.

The Piazza property was formerly the prime target of Avant Garde, but the site is frozen, pending a court battle with the developer.

“We’re looking at a mixed-use project,” said Paz on the issue of development for the Alpha Beta site. The consultant is presently engaging in discussion with the property owners.

Proposed plans for the Alpha Beta mixed-use development would be “tasteful” and “multi-story.”

However, the city’s Primrose properties which are next to the Alpha Beta site will not be included. Instead, Avant Garde is suggesting live-work lofts.

The consultant’s plan for the city’s Primrose properties is second mixed-use development. Residences will be built on top, while businesses will serve the project’s occupants and general residents below.

Regarding the expansion of the city’s redevelopment area, Martinez told the CRA that Avant Garde was “working on it” and had “done a lot of research.”

Martinez noted Avant Garde will return in either August or September to deliver its recommendation.

“Less is more” says program director Robert Paz

Intensive code enforcement and a revised policy for the city’s façade improvement program will improve Temple City’s business climate, said Paz.

“Temple City’s main street, this is what people see–blacked out windows and signage that is convenient to some, but not to all,” stated Paz during the PowerPoint presentation in reference to some businesses with non-English names.

Under Avant Garde’s proposal, intensive code enforcement would require businesses to have at least 50 percent of its signage in English, 80 percent of windows be free of “clutter” or advertisements. “Less is more,” Paz said.

Another problem, Paz continued, was the perception that some businesses were closed.

“When I first surveyed the city, there were so many businesses that appeared to be closed and not opened,” he stated. It was only when Paz touched the doorknobs did he realize businesses actually were open.

For the façade improvement program, Avant Garde recommends combining all the program’s funds into a single project.

The consultant wants the city to accept one bid for one block on Las Tunas Drive. A community partnership among the tenant, property owner, and city could then be developed.

In general, Avant Garde hopes Temple City will incorporate alternative roof lining, second-story construction, a separation of colors, awnings, and vibrant signage.

Together, signage and intensive code enforcement will form a better a business climate, Paz noted.

In addition to a revised façade improvement program and intensive code enforcement, Avant Garde also recommends head-in parking, parking meters, and landscaping.

The goal is to slow down traffic on Las Tunas, Paz stated.

“Everything that we’re recommending is obviously going to be up for debate,” said Paz.

Avant Garde is planning to have three town hall meetings. The meetings will be in two languages: English and Mandarin.

The first meeting will be in English. The second meeting will be in Chinese. The third and final meeting will be in both English and Chinese.

Avant Garde aims to incorporate Chamber of Commerce, local businesses in its plans

Avant Garde is also working on the creation of a business technical assistance center.

The technical assistance center will be composed of students at Azuza Pacific University. Students will provide Temple City businesses with free technical assistance.

Avant Garde’s final recommendation is to create a famers’ market, sponsored and run by the local Chamber of Commerce.

A farmers’ market is a place to gather for the community, said Paz.

Having the Chamber of Commerce take the lead in organizing the farmers’ market potentially gives the organization an opportunity to earn revenue. An additional benefit, the city’s annual contribution to the Chamber of Commerce may even decrease.

The next step: an advance team panel

Within the next thirty to sixty days, the economic consultant will want to have an advance team. The advance team will be a panel that consists of residents and business owners.

Avant Garde will also continue to work with Community Development Manager Joe Lambert.

“I think we have a game plan,” said Temple City mayor Fernando Vizcarra after Avant Garde concluded its presentation.

During public comments, Temple City resident Dina Piraino added, “I’ve been looking for something like this for some time.”

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