Ground was broken on the 45,000-square-foot shopping center project at 9th Street and Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach on May 5th. The 4.75-acre vacant lot sat for over four years after the former Miracle Shopping Center was demolished in December 2011.
The Breakwater Town Center, located at the beginning of Highway 75, which connects to the Silver Strand and Coronado, is planned to be finished by late 2017.
"Breakwater will bring Grocery Outlet, a much-needed [discount] grocery store, to the neighborhood," said spokesperson Barbara Metz, "as well as a mix of national and local retailers, services, and eateries.”
The project, a public/private partnership between Sudberry Properties and the Imperial Beach government, goes back years. Proposals for development were first made in 2004, and in 2009 the former Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency (which dissolved in 2011 in accordance with state law) purchased the Miracle Shopping Center and the adjacent North Island Credit Union properties for $11.2 million.
The subsequent stagnation of the lot from 2011 to the present has been considered something of a boondoggle by local residents. "We have all been subjected to that pile of dirt for too long,” said Melisande Perron on social media about the groundbreaking ceremony. “There are even trees growing in it!"
"I will believe it when I see it," added William Mcleroy.
However, Sudberry Properties CEO Colton Sudberry went on record in late 2014 to give credit to then-mayor Jim Janney and the city council for their efforts in ensuring progress was going as fast as possible.
There was controversy in 2010 when, after purchasing the land for $11.2 million, the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency Successor Agency planned to sell the properties for only $1 to Sudberry Properties. The sale was blocked by the California Department of Finance, which said that the sale did not follow the spirit of the law and, "The selling of these two parcels to the developer for $1 is not aimed at maximizing value."
The Department of Finance eventually ruled that the sale must be performed by the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency Successor Agency for the price of $213,000.
City manager Andy Hall said that the numbers are part of "a very complex real estate transaction" and that "There is no loss to the taxpayer."
"In short, blighted properties are purchased and redeveloped, which leads to an increase in property tax as new development occurs," Hall said via email, adding that the increased revenue is designed to pay back all expenditures by the agencies and local government.
There are other benefits to Imperial Beach, according to Hall: "The developer must complete significant off-site improvements to city infrastructure that benefit the entire community, secure specific tenants (in this case a grocery store and other specific users), incorporate highly upgraded design elements, etc."
According to Sudberry, part of the delay in construction was caused by the dissolution of California's redevelopment agencies in 2011, which left an unclear situation in terms of moving forward with the plan for the empty lot.
The new shopping center will be across the street from another, smaller shopping center that includes a chain-store pharmacy, a drive-through fast-food restaurant, a Goodwill thrift store, and Wally's supermarket.
The manager of the Goodwill store, Angie Fonseca, said the new shopping center "might affect us" but added, "we have our customers; they are used to coming every day, so we shouldn't be worried about that."
The old Miracle Shopping Center included a kind of strip mall that featured old Imperial Beach landmarks such as the Palm Theater, though the cinema had stopped operating many years before the demolition and the whole area was generally in disrepair.