Friday, July 15, 2011

Palm Desert council OKs relocation of Vons; delays hotel project

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Vons will be able to relocate its Palm Desert store after winning a long-delayed City Council vote Thursday, while the Rosewood five-star hotel proposed just off El Paseo got its first delay from the council.
The Vons vote had been delayed several times by concerns over traffic and the fate of the Palms to Pines shopping center at the west end of El Paseo, which is anchored by the current 39,000-square-foot store.
Brian Braaten said the store would likely stay there until November 2012 under a “backfill” agreement with the owner of the shopping center.
The agreement gives the landlord time to look for a new anchor, but offers no guarantees.
The new, 57,000-square-foot Vons is expected to revitalize Waring Plaza, which has struggled since the Mervyns closed.
That closure led the council to ask for a specific plan to ensure the Palms to Pines center remains viable.
Councilwoman Cindy Finerty said the council should see the agreement, but Braaten said it was confidential.
“Does it have absolute assurance of a tenant?” she asked Braaten.
“I don't know that that would be possible,” he said.
Vons bought the former Mervyns building with the intention of combining the Palm Desert store with the Rancho Mirage store that closed in November 2009.
Vons said a bigger store can better compete in today's market.
The new store will be about the same size as the Ralphs at Country Club Drive and Cook Street, and Vons plans to build spaces for three more stores into the former Mervyns structure.
Vons officials weren't aware of a 1991 zoning condition that prohibited supermarkets in the shopping center.
The council vote lifted this restriction, plus changed the city's 50,000 square-foot cap on grocery stores in the regional commercial-zoned areas to 60,000 square feet. Larger supermarkets exist in other parts of the city. No members of the public spoke on the Vons case.
In the case of the proposed $50 million Rosewood Hotel, the council decided to delay a vote on the project to its Aug. 25 meeting in the hope that Mayor Jean Benson could participate.


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