In 2011, restaurateurs Joel Herzer and Tom Eads got approval from the San Diego City Council to loan them $500,000 in redevelopment funds to assist with costs of opening Wang’s North Park restaurant.
Housed in the former JCPenney building at 3029 University Avenue in North Park, the restaurant launch ended up costing $1,775,001. In addition to the $500,000 loan, there was $450,001 from owner equity, and an $825,000 bank loan. The restaurant subsequently opened on November 21, 2011, and went out of business in May 2015.
Asked if it had been a good decision to help fund the restaurant, Vicki Granowitz, chair of the North Park Planning Committee, said, “When Wang's came to the community, we were really desperate to see something happen with the building. We were afraid we could possibly lose this historic structure to inappropriate development, and we were also committed to getting fine dining. The proposal covered everything the community was looking for, and with their background it just seemed like a perfect fit.”
Herzer and Eads had an agreement specifying that the $500,000 amount would be a “forgivable loan” if the eatery stayed in business for ten years. They had signed a 15-year lease; but they didn’t last 4 years, so the contract apparently required that loan to be repaid.
José Ysea, senior public information officer with the city, provided an explanation on July 20: “The loan agreement with the former Redevelopment Agency, now Successor Agency, includes a provision that if Wang’s defaults on their lease with the building owners prior to full forgiveness of the loan, the owners have the option to pay off the unforgiven loan balance which currently stands at $350,000. It is our understanding that the building owners are entertaining offers to sell the property, and the loan is secured by a first position lien against the building, which means such a sale would include the loan payoff. The City Attorney has been advising on this process.”
The Redevelopment Agency was closed February 1, 2012. The city became the Successor Agency, to assume assets and obligations and wind down existing redevelopment projects.
The Wang’s building had a “for lease” sign for many months, but it was removed. According to the San Diego County assessor’s office, the owner of record is Kcostanzo, LLC, of Loomis, California. Katie Costanzo responded via email, saying: “I am one of the owners through my LLC. We are still trying to either lease or sell the building. It is currently in escrow, which is why the sign came down. I can not say who the possible purchaser is, as the deal is confidential, but you will be able to find out the information when and if it closes escrow."
Emails to Herzer and to Wang’s of the Desert in Palm Springs for comment were not immediately answered.