Montclair adopts plan to overhaul Montclair Place

By on October 19, 2020
Montclair Plaza

The 52-year-old retail property will be converted to an outdoor, pedestrian facility. City officials hope to make the former Montclair Plaza a destination location. 

Montclair has decided how it will renovate its most important retail property.

The city council has approved the Montclair Place Specific District Plan, a 20-year project that would turn the once-vibrant shopping mall into an outdoor shopping facility and a regional shopping destination.

The plan calls for the demolition of the mall’s interior and construction of free-standing retail buildings, residential towers, a 100 to 200-room hotel, parks, and several office buildings.

The centerpiece of the project, called The Rembla, will be a tree-lined street running down the center of the project. Surrounded by restaurants and specialty retail. The Rembla will be modeled after a street in Barcelona, Spain, and the main component in making Montclair Place pedestrian-friendly, according to Mayor John Dutrey.

Council members unanimously approved the plan last month. Montclair Place has struggled in recent years, because of competition from Ontario Mills, Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, and The Shoppes at Chino Hills, all of which attract patrons from outside the Inland region.

The plan covers 104 acres bordered by Central Avenue on the east, Monte Vista Avenue on the west, Moreno Street on the north, and Interstate 10 on the south. It was put together by Moule & Polyzoides, an urban planning firm in Pasadena.

“Twenty years” was attached to the plan because it’s expected to take at least that long to implement it, and the project is expected to evolve over that length of time as the retail market changes, Dutrey said.

It will also give Montclair something close to a downtown and community gathering place, which it’s never had since it incorporated in 1956, the plan states.

The cost of the project has not been disclosed.

Reviving the property is essential to the city’s economic future.

“Our operating budget is about $30 million a year, and half of that comes from retail sales tax revenue,” Dutrey said. “I don’t know how much of that comes from Montclair Place, but it’s our best-known retail property, and it’s still a good location. We have to fix it.”

Between 5,496 and 6,321 residential units will be built, and 512,600 square feet of commercial space will be added. That will leave the property with about two million square feet for commercial development.

Montclair officials want Montclair Place to be a destination location. That means establishing a connection between the mall and Montclair TransCenter, located about one mile north of Montclair Place. 

Today, the TransCenter is used by Omnitrans, San Bernardino County’s largest transit system, and Metrolink, the rail system that connects Los Angeles County with the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire.

The final piece of that puzzle will be the extension of the L-Line – formerly called the Gold Line – through Claremont and into Montclair, which will cost at least $500 million and isn’t scheduled to happen until 2028 at the earliest.

Once that happens, access to Montclair Place from the San Gabriel Valley will be much easier and quicker than it is now. But the L-Line must reach Pomona first, and that isn’t expected to happen in 2025.

Montclair Place opened as Montclair Plaza, a one-level facility, in the fall of 1968. Faced with little competition the property flourished, and it’s generally credited with helping to put the Pomona Mall, an outdoor venue, and Indian Hill Mall, which was anchored by Sears, effectively out of business.

Montclair Plaza underwent its first major renovation in 1985, when a second level was installed. The property remained  popular into the early to mid-1990s, but it started to slip when Ontario Mills opened in 1986 and, a few years later, Victoria Gardens.

“I was three years old when it opened, and my earliest memories of it are going there with my parents in the mid-1970s,” Dutrey said. “It was a pretty busy place. For years, if someone asked me where downtown was I told them to go to Montclair Plaza.”

Today the mall covers approximately 1,200 square feet and has three anchor tenants: Barnes & Noble, JCPenney, and Macy’s. It lost Sears in 2019 and Nordstrom – the first in San Bernardino County – two years ago.  

Both sites remain vacant. Work is continuing on a 12-screen theater complex, but it’s not clear when that project will open because of COVID-19.

Montclair Place has more than 130 stores. It’s owned and managed by CIM Group Inc. in Los Angeles, which owns, develops, and operates commercial properties.

One Inland Empire commercial real estate broker believes Montclair Place, which is next to Interstate 10 and surrounded by residential development, is too good a location to let die.

“I think the city is taking exactly the right approach with that property,” said Brad Umansky, president of Progressive Real Estate Partners in Rancho Cucamonga, which specializes in retail transactions. “Enclosed malls don’t have as much appeal as they used to have, and it’s still a great piece of real estate.”

Because COVID-19 and streaming have thrown the future of movie theaters into question, Umansky expressed some concern about the multiplex, which is being developed by AMC and is reportedly close to completion.

Dutrey, however, said he has full confidence in how the city is trying to revive Montclair Place, including the theater, which was announced several years ago.

“I think the theater will do fine,” Dutrey said. “People will want to get out of the house, go eat, watch a movie and eat some popcorn. As for the property [Montclair Place], what else are we going to do with it? I’m sure Amazon would buy it right up, but we don’t want to do that. We want something that will compete with Amazon.”

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