On Tuesday, March 22, the San Diego city council approved loaning restaurateurs Joel Herzer and Tom Eads $500,000 in redevelopment funds to open Pan-Asian restaurant Wangs North Park in the former JC Penney's building at the intersection of University Avenue and Ray Street.
Officially dubbed "The University Avenue Rehabilitation Project," Herzer and Eads will use the money on improvements to the building and the surrounding streetscape. "The site needs a lot of work to bring it up to codes and make it into a viable business," said Herzer.
North Park residents and business owners agree the project will spruce up the vacant storefront last occupied by Big Lots, which closed in 2008. Herzer and Eads intend to lease the upper floors of the four-story, 40,000-square-foot building to other businesses.
During the meeting, district-three councilmember Todd Gloria applauded the project while stating the project's merits for those residents concerned about bringing more bars and restaurants to North Park.
"This is a project that will bring new life to North Park," Gloria said while addressing Herzer. "There have been a number of concerns about alcohol establishments in the community. Can you talk about the agreements that you made with the community regarding their concerns?"
Herzer said that the restaurant's liquor license stipulates that the establishment will not serve alcohol past midnight and agrees to monitor noise and provide security.
Councilmember David Alvarez asked staff where the funding would come from if Governor Brown's proposal to dismantle redevelopment agencies passes.
"At this point we have a binding agreement and it should be honored," said redevelopment staff member Michael Anthony.