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City hopes Peppertree facelift entices anchor store to center

Peppertree Square appears unchanged on the business front. The shopping center, located on the southeast corner of Indian Hill and Arrow Highway, remains busy, but without an anchor despite promising prospects.

While officials remain mum about the procurement of a major tenant, further changes to the already extensively renovated marketplace are on the horizon.

A preliminary architectural review will be held on Wednesday, April 9, to discuss the addition of a 6000-square-foot building on the side of the complex as well as to review other architectural fixes to complement recent renovations. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, 225 W. Second St.

Fresh fixes are nothing new to the south Claremont marketplace, which recently underwent an extensive three-month renovation. The construction crews moved in to remodel existing buildings, regrade the parking lot and create space for a grocery store or pharmacy. Proposed new changes include fixes to the roofs and columns, the creation of a new building along Arrow Highway, a public art element and adoption of a comprehensive sign program.

While the changes have yet to bring in a new major tenant, those working on revamping the center hope further fixes will provide the ticket needed to attract the anchor store the center seeks.

“[Attracting an anchor] is the keystone,” said Paul Wheeler, the architect for the project. “We are making slight modifications to enhance the space in hopes of making everything else work.”

Mr. Wheeler and other project participants have been hard at work for the past several years to make that vision a reality, with some setbacks along the way. Plans for the revitalization of the Peppertree shopping complex began several years ago with a Walgreen’s Pharmacy slated for occupancy. Soon after, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market also signed on to the project.

Though the project seemed to be moving along accordingly, it soon proved to be a source of frustration for the city and developers. Plans began to fizzle in late spring 2010 when Walgreen’s pulled out of the deal. Fresh & Easy maintained its plan to stay in the center and the center’s redesign with Fresh & Easy as the anchor, to occupy the proposed 6,000-square-foot building addition, was approved in July 2011. Frustrations mounted again, however, when Fresh & Easy pulled out of the nearly shovel-ready project in June 2012, as economic troubles ensued for the grocer.

Adding to difficulties, the complex’s owners live overseas, so review forms and permits had to be sent back and forth from China. Despite the troubles, redevelopment plans finally moved forward in September 2012 with the demolition of the center’s corner building.

Construction work in the early part of 2013 has given Peppertree the warm and inviting look that shop owners seek along with two spacious pads to lure anchors to the center. While none have set up shop, Brad Umansky, a local broker representing Peppertree Square’s owner, says there are hopefuls. He declined to comment in any further detail.

“We have active interest from a few, but it’s too early to discuss anything at this point,” he said.

Peppertree Square plans are on file with the Community Development Department at City Hall, 207 Harvard Ave, and available for public viewing 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For more information, contact Mark Carnahan in the Planning Division at (909) 399-5322 or mcarnahan@ci.claremont.ca.us. Written comments may be sent to PO Box 880, Claremont.

—Beth Hartnett


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