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Business is good for the Packing House in 2017

One of Claremont’s newest—and oldest—shopping destination, the Packing House, has had the good fortune of being nearly 100 percent occupied since it was redeveloped in 2007.

Built in 1922 by College Heights Orange and Lemon Association, the spot spent many decades as a thriving citrus industry packing house before closing its doors in 1972. It then fell into disuse, and even served as an off-the-grid rehearsal space for local musicians in the 1980s.

The city of Claremont eventually purchased the building, and Pomona’s Arteco Partners completed an 18-month restoration project in 2007 that preserved many historic features—such as the three-story tall saw tooth skylights—and added lofts, offices, galleries, boutiques and entertainment venues. It now boasts 55,000 square-feet of leasable space and about 20 retail, residential, and live/work spaces.

And Jerry Tessier of Arteco says they’re not done yet.

Casablanca restaurant, which formerly occupied the anchor corner space, has moved, and Gus’s Barbeque, a South Pasadena institution since 1946, is opening its second location in its place.

Gus’s will likely be open in the early part of 2018, after an extensive renovation of the site, Mr. Tessier said.

“The goal was, A, to find someone who was not a corporate chain,” Mr. Tessier said, “And, B, something that we didn’t already have in the Village.”

Some of the tenants in the Packing House are celebrating their 10th anniversaries this year, including Wine Merchants, Studio Claremont and the Claremont Forum. 

“Notwithstanding the great recession [of 2007], I think the cool thing is, it’s great when you see tenants that have been there since the beginning, especially when these days small businesses are confronted by the onslaught of online commerce,” Mr. Tessier said.

Other popular spots in the Packing House include Replay vintage clothing, Eureka Burger, Augie’s Coffee House and Z Pizza. It also host a bi-monthly comic book fair and takes part in Claremont’s first Saturday Art Walk.

Speaking of art, Mr. Tessier said another long-anticipated renovation is about to begin. Arteco recently hired an arts coordinator, and the firm is working on a series of hanging art installations to be featured inside the atrium.

“The atrium’s a cool space, but to me it still needs more vibrancy,” Mr. Tessier said. “I’ve always wanted to make it a more colorful, vibrant space.” The large-scale art showcase has been on his to-do list for many years, he added. The firm has already begun interviewing artists. The atrium’s first artist and art is yet to be determined at this point, but Mr. Tessier said he envisions “Some sort of kinetic, interactive, vibrant work.”

In addition to the Packing House’s new tenant, the owners will soon begin installation of a half-acre of solar panels on its roof, which Mr. Tessier said he hopes will power much of the building when they’re online, also in about a year.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com