The people of Arcadia are living in exciting times, according to Jason Kruckeberg, assistant city manager and development services director for Arcadia.
Residents enjoy a high quality of life, thanks to an increasingly healthy local economy, and they are about to start enjoying public transportation in the form of the Metro Foothill Gold Line train which will be fully operational by 2016, allowing commuters to travel around the metropolitan area without getting on the gridlocked freeways.
In the planning stages for more than a decade, the Foothill Gold Line will connect the people of Arcadia and other nearby communities in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains with Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles and everywhere in between.
“We are also poised to take full advantage of the new commuter hub that is being constructed at First Avenue and Santa Clara Street in our downtown area and leverage it on behalf of our downtown businesses. In fact, a new business improvement district has recently formed in our downtown. The Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association is active and motivated and has been meeting to discuss such issues as parking, special events, zoning and land use,” Kruckeberg stated.
Residents should also be pleased that new life has been breathed into the community’s major economic engine, Santa Anita Park, a thoroughbred racetrack that is synonymous with Arcadia. The ownership of the 81-year-old track has, according to Kruckeberg, invested millions in substantial improvements to the facility and into enhancing its slate of special off-season events and concerts in an effort to introduce a whole new group of people to the track.
“These improvements have really helped keep horse racing a relevant and exciting sport and have greatly enhanced the visitor experience,” he stated.
Santa Anita, which many consider to be the most beautiful racetrack in the world with its breathtaking view of the San Gabriel Mountains, hosts some of the most prominent racing events in the United States during their fall and spring meets, including both the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap. They have also hosted the Breeders’ Cup on numerous occasions.
Neighboring Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall is another huge employer for Arcadia. They, too, have invested heavily in improvements recently, focusing much of their attention on bringing big name restaurants to their outdoor Promenade and significantly upgrading internal areas of the center to attract high-level tenants, Kruckeberg said.
Methodist Hospital of Southern California, another economic driver for Arcadia, employs scores of people and provides health care for even more. But over the past several years, he explained, the hospital has generated even more economic activity for the city.
“Approximately 104,000 square feet of top-shelf medical office space has been built near the hospital over the last couple of years or is currently under construction,” Kruckeberg said.
“We are also very excited about a new development of 1.6 million square feet of distribution and logistics facilities on an 80-acre former landfill in the southeast corner of the city. It is currently undergoing an environmental review and then we hope to proceed with this exciting re-use of land,” he explained. “Generally speaking, Arcadia is pretty well built-out. It doesn’t have much empty land or many large empty boxes. So this is a unique opportunity.”
In addition, ground will soon be broken on two side-by-side Marriott-owned hotels, featuring a total of 200 guest rooms, and negotiations are underway with Aldi to bring one of their stores to the city.
“Arcadia has a very good balance of commercial businesses and we are trying to maintain that balance,” Kruckeberg said. “We have Santa Anita Park and Westfield Santa Anita, of course, but our many small businesses are just as important to the economy of Arcadia because they bring needed services to our residents.”
“Currently, the city’s attention is focused on a number of fronts. First there is our new business assistance/ombudsman program for businesses which we instituted last year. A member of the city staff is charged with helping individual business people by answering questions and walking them through business expansions and other changes they wish to make,” he explained.
“In addition, we have partnered with the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce and the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership to make visits to existing businesses. So far, we have been concentrating on the industrial and technical sectors. These are essentially ‘meet and greets.’ We ask them what they need, what their concerns are, if they need to expand soon, etc. Our goal is to start a conversation and get the business people comfortable with working with the city.”
“Internally, we are also working to revamp our zoning and land use regulations so that we can be nimble and better able to respond to changes as they happen. We will be updating our codes this year, working to streamline them and make them more user-friendly,” Kruckeberg stated.
“We understand that there has been substantial retail retraction everywhere since the recession. So, we need to be able to react to those market changes. We need to be able to allow former retail areas to revitalize themselves and, in some cases, that will involve transitioning those areas to a different land use and bringing residential properties (and the consumers who will live in them) closer to commercial properties,” he said.