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Harboring business help

Councilmen, planning commissioners are looking at ideas to bring more business to Harbor Boulevard.

April 13, 2010|By Mona Shadia

Costa Mesa Councilman Eric Bever said he is brainstorming ways to revive struggling sections of Harbor Boulevard.

“The economy is going to come back,” he said. “And if we can get something going, whether it’s incentives or zone changes, some general plan amendment, if we can get that street ready for when the economy comes back, I think that will be helpful. If we don’t have anything in place, then all the existing uses stand.”

Bever said all of the ideas he discussed were preliminary and would have to be analyzed before formal proposals are made.

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He also acknowledged that many businesses have found success on Harbor, including Target, Home Depot and CarMax. But, when looking at plenty of empty storefronts, others might be finding it difficult to thrive in the heavy-traffic boulevard that’s dressed with many long, but narrow lots.

In order to help Harbor make a successful transition and evolve over the next 20 years, Bever said, two issues must be addressed.

The first is that the boulevard has many long and narrow lots, which makes it difficult to attract larger commercial businesses and car dealerships, and harder for smaller businesses to thrive. For example, traffic is sometimes backed up on Harbor as dealers bring in or move out cars from their lots.

The second is that some businesses have outrun their usefulness, such motels, Bever said, adding that in the 1960s, motels were used frequently by visitors to the area. But they no longer serve that purpose, catering more to longer-stay occupants than tourists. Over the years, the city has tried to persuade motel owners to convert their businesses into steady homes or apartments.

Bever said he’s not looking to kick some businesses out of the city, but rather find a way to help them transition into vibrant and successful ones. He, along with Councilman Gary Monahan and city Planning Commissioners Steve Mensinger and Jim Righeimer, formed an ad hoc committee early last year to address the challenges facing Harbor.

But other bigger issues, including balancing the city’s budget and reacting to Sacramento’s move to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds, have kept them from working on Harbor’s improvement, Bever said.

Min Yum, owner of Executive Style Cleaner near Adams Avenue, said the smaller and larger businesses on Harbor complement each other, but minor changes, like adding a left-turn entrance to the shopping center instead of having customers make a U-turn to enter, could help his business.

Officials hope that the city can help time the comeback of Harbor with a rebounding economy.

As the economy is showing some signs of improvement, officials are hoping to make progress so that Harbor is ready when business is back, Bever said.

“We’re basically going to sit down and come up with some approaches, and we may bring some folks from the industry in to bring in their suggestions — people who have successes — and basically going to kick it around until we get some ideas,” he said. “And we may not find a golden solution, but we’re going to give it a shot.”


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