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Redevelopment Projects Aim to Revitalize Downtown Core

After delays, Main Street Promenade is set to begin construction soon. Citronica One is under way.

With one project about to kick off and another already under way, redevelopment in Lemon Grove is on an upswing.

Demolition and grading for Main Street Promenade, a linear park and transit plaza aimed at revitalizing the downtown core, is expected soon after months of delay from a construction rebid. Along North Avenue, the foundation is being laid for Citronica One, a mixed-use development that will offer 56 affordable-housing units. A separate project aimed at creating affordable housing for seniors also is in the pipeline.

The activity is a welcome sight for civic leaders looking forward to the potential for enhanced property- and sales-tax revenues in an expanded economic base for Lemon Grove. A long-term goal is to spur additional private redevelopment.

City Manager Graham Mitchell said the city is in pre-construction meetings on the Promenade, with site work expected as early as April. “We should be completed around November of 2012,” Mitchell said.

The city is calling Main Street Promenade “a place where yesterday, today and tomorrow meet” in a modern Downtown Village. It seeks to make an iconic windmill the anchor for a walkway documenting the region’s history from the time of Native Americans, with furnishings, art elements and light poles reflecting the past. Lemon Grove Station will be remodeled into a transit plaza using lemon slices as a motif. A “Pioneer Playground” aims to keep little ones occupied while waiting for the trolley.

The future will be represented in displays on sustainable practices in energy and food production, among other issues.

The city celebrated the onset of demolition for the Promenade in September with an eye toward completion by summer, but activity later came to a halt.  Mitchell said engineering issues had to be clarified to keep the project to its $5.1 million budget.

“There was some misunderstanding of how the concrete was to be poured,” Mitchell said. “They were bidding it more expensively because they thought it was a more expensive process.”

Re-advertised in December, the contract was awarded to Land Forms Construction and is “the exact same project” envisioned before the new round of bidding, Mitchell said.

Around the corner, early construction continues on Citronica One, a five-story building with 3,700-square-feet of retail/commercial offerings at street level, and parking underground. The $15 million project is being built by Hitzke Development Corp. of San Marcos, which also was responsible for Citron Court, a low-income apartment project along Broadway.

Citron Court opened in 2009 with 2,200-square-feet of retail space but only recently drew its first ground-level commercial establishment, an outdoor furniture store. Ginger Hitzke, president of Hitzke Development, said additional space is being prepared for a DMV-services business.

Hitzke said her company had been saving space at Citron Court for businesses that were relocated from the Citronica One site. She’s not worried about prospects for finding commercial tenants at the new building, and that her company is not yet actively marketing the site.

Hitzke said her preference is for “small businesses that are trying to get off the ground,” more like the furniture shop at Citron Court than a nationally franchised juice or sandwich shop.

“Ideally I’d like to see a dry-cleaning drop-off shop at Citronica One because it’s going to be right where people get on and off the freeway every day,” Hitzke said.

The project can be an economic success without any immediate retail development, she noted. “It really is an apartment building with a little bit of commercial space.”

Hitzke hopes to follow Citronica One with Citronica Two, an 80-unit affordable-housing development for seniors. The project currently is seeking funding.

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