La Puente going back to the negotiating table on bowling alley site

I talked with the developer who La Puente city officials hope will build something at the closed bowling alley on Hacienda Boulevard.
Arman Gabay of the Charles Co. is scheduled to discuss buying the property from the city at a meeting scheduled for Dec. 8.
He didn’t sound too optimistic.
“The rents everywhere have come down horrendously.” he said. “We’re trying to make the numbers work. It’s taking some digestion from everyone. It’s the reality today. We’re trying to find out what’s reality so we can get something done.”
He said he planned to build “shops” there, and when pressed to be more specific, he said there would be “big shops.”

The process to redevelop the center began in 2004.

Here’s the most recent story about the center. It was written by former Tribune staffer Tania Chatila in Aug. 2008.

LA PUENTE – Two council members are claiming the city lost out on $4 million by waiting 45 days to finalize a developer for a proposed Hacienda Boulevard retail center.

Council members John Solis and Lola Storing said the Charles Co. was willing to pay the city $23 per square foot for about 422,000 square feet of Hacienda Boulevard before the council decided to take a 45-day stay to reassess the project and solicit interest from other developers.

The Charles Co. would have paid the city about $9.7 million in full within 30 days, Solis said.

Today, the Charles Co. is offering $13 a square foot, or about $5.5 million, he said.

“We lost all that money,” Storing said. “It’s very unfortunate because we do not have that kind of money to lose.”

Some city officials argue the claims are unfounded and false, considering a city consultant and staff members advised the council last month that no developer would have been able to deliver at such a high price in this struggling economy.

“The economy has changed dramatically,” Councilman Dan Holloway said. “If this had gone forward earlier, we would be in the same situation we were in with the community center where a contractor agreed to something and, because of the economy, cannot perform.”

The city consultant on the project, Calvin Hollis – a managing principal for Keyser Marston and Associates – was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.

According to his firm’s Web site, Hollis’ strengths are in the areas of public and private real estate development, analysis and negotiations.

“A consultant doesn’t know what Arman can pay and can’t pay,” Solis said. “Despite the current economy, we would have had our money in 30 days.”

La Puente officials had previously been in talks with the Charles Co. for about a year regarding the project, which would encompass several sites, including the city-owned bowling alley site, a Hacienda Boulevard strip mall that the city is in the middle of acquiring, and Triangle Square, which officials are negotiating for.

But in April an agreement between the two entities expired, and instead of extending that agreement the council voted 3-2 for a 45-day stay to look at other options.

Storing and Solis dissented.

During that time, officials solicited proposals from other interested developers including Lowe Enterprises, which was offering $23 a square foot for the property along with a $11 or $12 million city subsidy, Solis said.

The Charles Co. is not asking the city for any money, he said.

The council finally decided to go with the Charles Co., citing fiscal responsibility.

“If you’re a developer and you know (your competition) is paying $8, $9 a square foot, you think you’re going to jump up your price the way the economy is going?” Solis said. “I knew they were going to drop their price.”

Charles Co. owner Arman Gabay said Wednesday he had previously offered the city $23 a square foot, but that was under the impression that the project would include Triangle Square.

Now, Gabay is pegging the project without that site – since it has not yet been acquired – meaning the retail center will likely only include two big box stores and a parking lot, he said.

“We had a lot of momentum and we lost it,” Gabay said. “When you lose momentum and market conditions change on you, it’s quite a vicious cycle.

“Once you gear up to do something, the faster you do it the less it costs. The longer you take, the more it costs,” he said.

Mayor Louie Lujan said Gabay ‘s $23 offer was made long ago, and the council knew going into the 45-day stay that Gabay had dropped his offer to $13 a square foot.

“I will unequivocally say (Solis and Storing’s) argument has no basis or truth whatsoever,” Lujan said. “We went into the 45-day process because (the Charles Co.) switched their offer, because the economy went sour, because of the land deal. Not the other way around.”