Locals Say Big Biz Gets First Dibs in New Shopping Center

Published Feb. 16, 2012 by Imperial Beach Patch.

After multiple deployments for Russ Blauert and Lori Blauert lost her job, the couple opened IB Pet in the Silver Strand Shopping Center in 2009.

Since then they moved into a larger space, expanded their selections and opened a pet food delivery service for customers around San Diego County.

Today they want to expand again, this time into the new shopping center to be built on 9th Street and Palm Avenue.

“We’ve been doing really well and I feel like we’re one of the up and coming businesses in IB. We have a clean shop, we’re young and there’s pets everywhere in IB,” Lori said. Many of the store’s customers are from IB but also from Coronado and even a few from Tijuana every week, she said.

After contacting the project leader Sudberry Development, the Blauerts met with Sudberry officials two weeks ago.

Lori said they said they were told their store would be considered if a mainstream pet store like Petco or PetSmart declined.

She understands the need for big names in the new shopping center, but small businesses in the area should be considered too, Lori said. It may not serve the community well to overlook small businesses that attract people to the area and give the city part of its individuality.

“Now that they can’t get somebody in there, they’re kind of desperate to get the ball rolling and they may be considering what’s not best for IB to get it started,” she said.

With the recommendation of redevelopment coordinator Jerry Selby, the Blauerts will speak in public comments at the Imperial Beach City Council meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Businesses or residents with questions or complaints about the new shopping center are asked to contact Selby at 619-424-2226.

The new 42,000 square foot shopping center will have space for seven different businesses. 14,500 square will go to a new food market while the remaining space may go to a sit-down restaurant and other commercial businesses, Selby said.

At this time, no tenants have committed to the project and no lease agreements have been signed.

“Until we have leases signed, we’re not going to reveal what’s there,” Selby said. Without confidentiality agreements for negotiations, “things can fall apart. I realize there’s a lot of rumors out there and everything else, but nothing has been signed.”

The elimination of redevelopment agencies has complicated matters, Selby said. Bringing the shopping to grade with Palm Avenue and restructuring the intersetction of Delaware Street and Palm Avenue also need to be done before construction of the new shopping center begins. Work on the intersection may begin in June or later this summer.

“There’s a lot of waiting and seeing going on,” Selby said. “The entire grading of the site won’t really start until later on when the project is ready to go and we’ve closed on the property. Importing of dirt probably won’t start until maybe a year from this June.”

It may take up to two years for construction to begin, said Sudberry Development director of Urban Redevelopment Estean Lenyoun.

The project’s preliminary construction schedule detailed last December said construction is scheduled to begin in December 2012 for a June 2013 grand opening.

While speaking to City Council at a meeting last spring, Lenyoun said Sudberry was in talks with Fresh and Easy, Starbucks and Panda Express.

Lenyoun declined to state what sort of companies are still in talks to become tenants in the new shopping center, citing confidentiality agreements as a bedrock for negotiations.

Lenyoun said he understands the sensitivity that surrounds a project so central to the city and its residents and that confidentiality agreements can make it difficult to discern what will happen at 9th and Palm.

“I think if we don’t watch it, we can become the reason for the rumors ourselves,” he said.”

“Anybody that is in the marketplace as IB pet is we have an obligation to look at as part our agreement with the city and community,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right mix of tenants for the shopping center.”

“We have to go to any and everybody out there. You have to do all your homework too to see if it makes sense or if it doesn’t. We’re in the process of doing our homework and if it makes sense for the community, we ‘d love to see them there.”

Lenyoun added that the mix of tenants must be acceptable to lenders as well, and the economy has been challenging in a way developers has never seen before.

“I think given the economic times right now, transitions in the marketplace and everything, that this is one of the most difficult times me and some of my peers have ever seen to make something happen,” he said.

“It does take time to make it happen. It’s really easy if you’re not wanting to do your very best, then you just go out and get people that don’t really care about communities or have a vested interest.”

In this economy he said, “you take who is willing to come into the market. You do your best and open it up to everyone.”

“The reality is that we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” he said. “That’s what is so important about having the right people in these talks.”

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