Rich Products site scheduled for demolition next week

The landscape of Village West will soon begin to take on a new form as the city and its residents prepare for the arrival of The Village Lofts, a four-story mixed-use project with residential apartments scheduled for completion in March 2017.

Demolition of a vacant industrial building, previously occupied by Rich Products Corporation and located at 127 Oberlin Ave., is slated to begin in the coming weeks with construction beginning as soon as the demolition is completed.

At approximately 10,000 square feet, the first floor of The Village Lofts will consist of restaurant and retail space and the “work” portion of 10 live/work loft spaces. The “live” portion of the live/work lofts and 64 residential apartments will occupy the second, third, and fourth floors. A two-level, 180-space parking structure will occupy large portions of the first and second floors of the main building, but many neighboring residents feel that’s inadequate given the parking issues already plaguing the area.

“The parking situation at Village West is already ridiculous,” says Stan Burwell, Village Walk board member and resident. “Come spend time at the Village Walk on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. You can’t park on the street. The board is extremely strict on our parking rules so if you come to the Packing House and park in our guests parking places, we’ll tow you,” Mr. Burwell warns. “We enforce the rules.”

The development of the 1.67-acre parcel, in the Claremont Village Expansion Specific Plan Area, was discussed at length on March 2 when the developer, Denley Investments and Management, held two neighborhood meetings at the Claremont City Hall Citrus Room outlining the project.

Over 30 Village business owners and residents listened to numerous presentations regarding demolition and construction schedules as well as the measures that would be taken to minimize the impact to neighboring residents and businesses.

Having deliveries scheduled in the middle of the day as much as possible as well as preventing reverse alarms on vehicles before 8 a.m were solutions to mitigate noise. Dirt and dust were discussed as well, with spraying the site down with water as a viable, although not a very water-wise solution given the state’s drought conditions.

In addition to the traffic that inevitably comes with construction, concerns became amplified for Village West residents who already feel like they’re trying to make the best of a bad situation.

“The trucks will be routed down Oberlin, through the back alley, out on Cornell and back up to Bonita,” explained Mr. Burwell. “As Village Walk residents, we have two exits. We go up Cornell and go down First Street. Most of the time, that’s okay for people. First thing in the morning and late in the evening are going to be tough on us. But on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, we’re going to have lots of traffic and lots of dust and we can’t stop it.”

Mr. Burwell concedes that Village Walk Board members were late to the party in regards to the development of The Village Lofts. They offered little to no input to the city regarding their concerns and, with the project now underway, he’s aware that not much can be done moving forward.

“Our hopes were that we could have found some way to mitigate the problem with this one, but it’s done,” says Mr. Burwell. “It’s in concrete, it’s sunk and, unfortunately, no one on the Village Walk Board gave [the parking issue] much thought.”

“The board’s point of view is it looks like the city is making a mistake here and they want to continue to make the same mistake,” he continued. “They want to develop Santa Fe on the other side of the railroad tracks all the way to Cambridge and put walkways all the way over to our area. I’m not saying that’s a bad idea—I just don’t know. What I do know is that the city isn’t thinking about the parking and the people. They are going to ruin the quality of life for us here in Claremont.”

Mr. Burwell is already thinking ahead to when The Village Lofts are filled with residents and the challenges that greater congestion will bring to Village Walk homeowners.

“I’m going to try to get Denley to disallow dogs—not cats—because they are going to come down to Village Walk to go to the bathroom,” he says. “It’s not a maybe. It will happen every day because there is no place for them to go poop.”

Because The Village Loft units will be leased and not owned, Mr. Burwell believes Denley can do something about that. While they may not feel it’s good business, he says they need to think about the rest of the community.

According to David Bolour with Denley Investments and Management, destruction of the Richs Product Corporation building has been delayed by several weeks as the company awaits the approval for a permit.

“We had our Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan report done for construction but not for demolition,” Mr. Bolour explains. “It came up out of nowhere but it’s pretty typical stuff.”

The report has been submitted, with Denley awaiting approval from the city before demolition can begin. Once a permit has been issued, Mr. Bolour says tear down is expected by mid-month and should be completed by June.

“The city subs out the review of their reports so it should take another couple of weeks before we can get a permit for demolition,” he says. “Interior demolition and salvage will take about three weeks.”

In response to the concerns regarding future tenants taking their animals to nearby Village Walk when nature calls, Mr. Bolour assures residents that shouldn’t be an issue.

“After I spoke with Mr. Burwell, I look again at the plans and we’ve got an area on Cornell that we’re going to put in real grass,” he explains. “I’m a dog person and it’s really unnecessarily complicated. Most tenants will have pets and I’m all for pets as long as it’s done responsibly. Maintaining that area will part of our management of the property.”

Mr. Burwell would like to see Claremont stick to its small-town roots, something he feels the city has deviated from in recent years.

“I was born and raised in this town and I have a very different view of Claremont than our city does,” Mr. Burwell proliferates. “I want to keep it as a small college town because that’s what I think makes it successful. They don’t want that. They want to make a Pasadena out of it. It’s all about dollars. It’s about tax revenue. Perhaps the city should try to live within its means.”

—Angela Bailey


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