20 years ago the buildings at the SE corner of Harbor and Commonwealth burned down under strange circumstances, including what was left of the Sterns and Goodman store (why do historic structures keep burning down in Fullerton?). Unbeknownst to the good folks of Fullerton, perhaps the worst example of Redevelopment ineptitude was about to begin.
The owner of the property, Pierre Nicholas, proposed to build a bank building on the corner – a suitable use for the 100% corner any reasonable person would have to agree. But not the entrepreneurial geniuses who ran the Redevelopment Agency at the time – Terry Galvin and his boss Hugh Berry. The problem? Banks don’t generate any sales tax revenue and that’s what Redevelopment is all about. At one hearing a defensive Councilmember Buck Catlin exclaimed “they wanted to build a bank” with the same tone of disgust one might mention a whorehouse or an opium den.
And so Friends, the City embarked on a course to acquire a lengthy ground lease to prevent the owner of a property to develop it the way he wanted . Nicholas went along. Why not? Income with no effort on his part.
The Redevelopment bureaucrats already had their favored developer lined up – Sanderson/J. Ray (from Irvine!)who, in cahoots with the City, had worked out a deal with Knowlwood Restaurants to occupy a restaurant on the southerly part of the site.
The subsidized Kwowlwood was eventually ground out of the Redevelopment process – a barn shaped object clad in stucco and brick veneer (pictured, above). Yeehaw!
Meanwhile the development of the corner languished as the developer was finding tenants, and presumably a loan, hard to come by during the early 90s recession. The developer did get permission to put parking lot on the corner and just added insult to injury. The 100% corner – a parking lot!
By 1995 the project was finally moving ahead. The developer proposed a stucco palazzo with a ludicrous dome covered with green glop. But worst of all the entire second floor was a fake! The developer still couldn’t rent it out and decided to do a movie set storefront instead. Check out this image:
Molly McClanahan (former Councilmember and current NOCCCD Trustee)
Don Bankhead (current Councilmember)
Dick Ackerman (former Councilman, Sate Assemblyman, and State Senator)
Buck Catlin (former Councilmember)
and, lest we forget:
Julie Sa (twice elected former unintelligible Councilmember, current whereabouts unknown)
By the time the building was built and occupied 7 long years had passed – 7 years of lost property tax, and the addition ludicrous new buildings that never should have been built in the first place. For many Redevelopment watchers “Knowlwood” has become synonymous with Redevelopment boondoggles.