Placentia Mulls Old Town Revamp Amid Plan to Add Metrolink Stop, Apartments

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Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Placentia City Manager Damien Arrula explains the benefits of a proposed transit oriented development on Crowther Avenue.

 

By Daniel Langhorne

The Placentia City Council will consider two plans in the coming months to encourage private investment in Old Town Placentia and the Packing House District, following the Orange County Transportation Authority’s commitment to build a Metrolink Station and 253-space parking structure.

With the Metrolink Station expected to be operational in 2020, Placentia can finally move forward  on projects that have been in the works for over 10 years. One of the city staff’s top priorities is the sale of a vacant city-owned parcel, which was once home to a dilapidated packing house, to a developer for a transit oriented development that would build commercial and residential units south of the train platforms.

“We’re on the threshold of some really good stuff,” said Mayor Pro Tem Craig Green. “I believe once the economic engine gets into high gear we’re going to be able to sit back and watch some really nice things happen.”

On Tuesday, the Placentia City Council will host a study session on the Old Town Placentia District Revitalization Plan, which would establish architecture and streetscape standards for and L-shaped district that includes Bradford Avenue from Chapman Avenue to Santa Fe Street and Santa Fe from Bradford to Murray Street.

Placentia’s long-term goal is to stimulate economic development by making these streets more pedestrian friendly and encourage use of the public realm whether it be outdoor dining, public art and/or street festivals.

The transit oriented development zone laid out in the Packing House District Plan would see industrial and manufacturing properties covered into four- or five-story mixed used buildings with ground level commercial spaces underneath luxury apartments. This housing would be marketed mostly to millennial and empty nesters who want to take Metrolink’s 91 line to Los Angeles Union Station or Downtown Riverside, City Manager Damien Arrula said.

“There’s a shift in how people are traveling,” Arrula said. “It’s happening right before our eyes.”

An opportunity for construction of a hotel and event center would also be permitted on Crowther Avenue next to the 57 Freeway if the City Council approves the Packing House District Plan.

The historic packing house at Crowther and Melrose Street is slated to be preserved and renovated. Arrula said city staff decided to exempt this building from plans to phase out manufacturing because how much it will cost a current or future owner to transition to an adaptive reuse.

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Courtesy of City of Placentia
A concept drawing of West Crowther Avenue after construction of an apartment building and addition of street improvements.

 

Placentia stands to annually gain $1.5 million in additional taxes after a full build-out of the Packing House District, according to an economic benefit analysis by a city consultant.

About 35 people attended a meeting on Wednesday at the Edwin T. Powell Building to learn about the proposed Packing House District Plan. Arrula said investors will be more likely to buy, renovate and redevelop properties if they know how tall buildings can be, what architectural designs are permitted and how much they will have to spend on infrastructure improvements like paved sidewalks, street trees, lighting, trash cans and benches.

Owners of properties south of Crowther Avenue expressed concerns about being dragged into paying for street improvements after properties across the street are redeveloped. Arrula emphasized that the revitalization plan, if approved by the City Council, won’t place any regulatory or financial burdens on property owners adjacent to the District.

Rosalina Davis, co-owner of Tlaquepaque Restaurant, said the downtown merchants have been waiting on the train station and parking structure for a long time. She is happy to see that Arrula has been very aggressive about seeing the project to fruition.

“I like that he wants it to be a lot more pedestrian friendly,” Davis said.

Her only complaint about the Old Town Placentia plan is that it proposes converting Bradford and Santa Fe avenues into one-way streets, which could frustrate and confuse customers who are unfamiliar with the area.

As Placentia starts to see more private investment in its Old Town area, Green said he will be focused on making sure city staffers expedite permits and business licenses as much as possible.

“I think it’s incumbent on the City Council to make sure all city staff are ready mentally, physically, and staff wise to move people’s business plans forward,” he said.

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