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Car repair shops wary of move

Businesses on city-owned block may be asked to leave when redevelopment plans move ahead

Posted: February 5, 2010 10:29 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Cuby Cosio, body man at Auto Collision Center in downtown Newhall, works on a vehicle Friday afternoon. The city bought the block where the body shop is located, and as it continues to renovate the area, the shop will eventually have to move elsewhere.

Owners of three auto repair shops are worried that the city's redevelopment agency may eventually force them out of their spots in downtown Newhall, saying they like their current, visible locations.

"It's business prejudice," Automotive Technology owner Mike Hagerty said. "Obama's talking about small business as the engine of America, and we have the reverse here."

The Santa Clarita Redevelopment Agency bought the property that the auto shops rent last year, and may ask the businesses to leave as it moves ahead with its downtown Newhall revitalization plan.

However, Redevelopment Manager Armine Chaparyan said the agency doesn't have specific plans for the property nor a timeline for when such a plan would be implemented.

"We do see the potential of redevelopment of that block," Chaparyan said, "One of the biggest challenges in redevelopment is assembling property, and this is an assemblage of an entire block of property with two willing sellers."

The redevelopment agency bought the two-acre block between Main Street, Lyons and Railroad avenues for $6.2 million in November.

The businesses there, Insurance Auto Collision Center, Automotive Technology and Wanjon Auto Shop, now pay rent to the agency and will be given six-month notices to vacate when the agency chooses to move forward with renovation plans.

Newhall's Main Street is midway through a streetscape renovation. A few years ago, this five-block stretch was part of San Fernando Road, and it was a four-lane thoroughfare. The shop owners say this renovation harmed their business, too.

"It's much better when you have visibility," Insurance Auto Collision Center owner Tony Inderbitzin said. That's another reason why he and the other auto body shops aren't thrilled about relocating.

"The year I came here, my business doubled. It's the old, ‘location, location, location,'" Inderbitzin said.

Inderbitzin said he has run his business for 27 years, 12 of it at his current location. But he didn't do it all just so that the city can make him move it, he said.

"And that's sort of what it feels like," he said.

The shop owners said they feel like they're being driven out.

Chaparyan said the agency's recent moves go back to the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan. The plan was adopted in 2005 and called for a more pedestrian-friendly, urban area in Newhall, particularly along five blocks of Main Street south of Lyons Avenue.

The intersection of Lyons and Main will serve as an entry point to the new and improved Main Street, and the city will break ground on a library along Lyons on March 2.

Wanjon Auto Body owner Cesar Garcia said he liked the changes, but not the impending move.

"The changes are beautiful, it's great," Garcia said. "But why can't they just beautify it?"


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