BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
The spectrum of Signal Hill stores and restaurants is on the verge of acquiring more colors. Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market’s corporate office recently announced its firm decision to build a store in Signal Hill. The Dollar Tree and Ross Dress for Less also recently announced their plans to open stores in town, PETCO is pushing forward with its plan to open a store here, and In & Out is currently discussing the possibility of opening up a restaurant in Signal Hill.
In an interview with The Signal Tribune, Gary Jones, Signal Hill’s director of community development, discussed the city’s latest commercial developments beginning with Fresh & Easy. “It’s going to be a new, stand-alone store on the corner of Cherry Avenue and Crescent Heights Street across from Home Depot,” he said. “It is going to have a mosaic-tile art wall.” He explained that Fresh & Easy markets are a subsidiary of Tesco, a corporation based in England. A few months ago, due to the economic recession, the company scaled back its plans to open new stores in the United States. Nevertheless, according to Jones, corporation officials recently announced their plans to open the market in Signal Hill.
He added that Tesco officials have not been in communication with the city. “We only deal with them through their developer, which is Signal Hill Petroleum,” he said. “But the planning commission approved the elevations and site plan for the project about a year ago.”
Jones added that Signal Hill Petroleum recently began modifying the oil wells it operates on the site to make way for the store, but at this point there is no estimated date for the start and finish of construction.
Meanwhile, Ross Dress for Less, a clothing store chain, recently agreed to open a store in the now-vacant building that once housed Circuit City in the shopping center near the corner of Spring Street and California Avenue. Jones said he does not have a projected opening for that store, but he added that two new stores have recently been completed on both sides of the former Circuit City building. “Those will be occupied by a PETCO and by a Dollar Tree store,” he noted. “They should both be opening up in about two months.”
Jones added that the city and In & Out officials are having ongoing discussions about the fast-food chain building a restaurant on an existing pad in the Home Depot parking lot near the corner of Spring Street and Atlantic Avenue. “It was actually envisioned as a site for a traditional sit-down restaurant, but those plans changed,” he said. “Of course people can sit down in an In & Out too.”
Meanwhile, the construction of the new U.S. Bank near the northwest corner of Cherry Avenue and Willow Street is close to completion. “They are finishing the exterior of that, and it should be open for business sometime in the next two months,” Jones said. He added that he was pleased that, in spite of the economic recession, the city is continuing to attract new business development.
He noted, however, that residential development remains in the doldrums and will probably remain that way until the mortgage crisis begins to be resolved. “We do have one bit of very good news, which could be a positive sign,” he said. “Work has resumed on the Villagio residential project on Gundry Avenue south of Willow Street.” He explained that about one third of the houses had been completed months ago, but worked had stopped on the remainder until very recently. Several other approved residential projects in the city have been on hold for about a year.