Will Village Center’s Revival Help Make Stanton Great Again?

Life after recession. Artistic rendering obtained from Stanton

The Village Center shopping plaza in Stanton along Beach Boulevard stood for years as a tattered testament to the Great Recession’s fallout. Acapulco’s, the last remaining restaurant, shuttered two years ago leaving in its wake abandoned storefronts giving the place an eerie vibe reminiscent of the ghost town of Ambrose from House of Wax. In the meantime, blue banners hung from fenced-off enclosures ironically invited people to shop and dine in Stanton while trying to cover up the blighted sight.

The only real signs of life at Village Center of late came courtesy of a busy Department of Motor Vehicles office stationed there. Stanton’s strip of Beach Boulevard seemed to be in an irredeemable slump, especially when even the legendary Mad Greek restaurant just down the street from Village Center closed down not too long ago. But a reversal of fortunes may be in store with new developers finally ready to revive the shopping center with commercial and residential projects. Demolition is already underway. 

“The economic impact to Stanton was similar to any commercial vacancy; there is a reduction in sales tax revenue and fewer services for our residents,” says Kelly Hart, Stanton’s community and economic director. “The expected benefits to the city for this project is a revitalized gateway to Stanton, with a prospering commercial center that provides a stable mix of uses for entertainment, meeting the daily needs of our residents, and a high quality residential development that will provide an enhanced streetscape and spur development.”

Stanton took a long road to arrive to the much anticipated moment. City manager reports dating back to January 2015 note staff frustration with a lack of progress in revitalizing Village Center. By late 2016, Shappell Properties, which previously owned the plaza, began negotiations to sell the 22-acre site. Frontier Real Estate Investments acquired the property in March 2017. In addition to Frontier’s commercial plans, Brookfield Homes Southern California also acquired the north end of Village Center for a 208-unit condominium project.

Stanton’s planning commission approved the commercial phase back in March. City council followed by approving Brookfield’s condos in June.

No more enchiladas. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

Since a few acres on the south side of Village Center fall within Garden Grove, the developer and representatives from both cities had to get on the same page with differing codes, regulations and flaps over parcel maps. Things even got a little testy with regards to Stanton’s perceived reputation during a meeting between Garden Grove senior planner Lee Marino and a Frontier representative. “Please know I thought it was extremely arrogant and frankly disparaging to the City of Stanton when Lee made the comment that this was basically a nothing project to [Garden Grove] but a big deal to Stanton,” Dan Almquist, a managing partner at Frontier REI, wrote to Lisa Kim, Garden Grove’s community and economic development director, in an email obtained by the Weekly. Marino later apologized.

“I realized after the meeting that what I said was probably taken wrong,” Marino wrote. “Just so you know, I do think your project will be a good project for both cities since, it will be cleaning up a blighted property and bringing in good tenants in the process.” All hard feelings aside, Garden Grove approved the commercial development and the bulldozers are already busy at work clearing out the city’s slice of Village Center, including tearing down Kim’s Piano which already moved to Tustin (Sorry, Hanmi Piano: There won’t be dueling piano stores across from each other on Garden Grove Boulevard anymore). 

So far, Frontier has secured agreements to bring In-N-Out, Raising Cane’s, Panda Express, Chase Bank, Planet Fitness and Grocery Outlet to Village Center. They’re hoping to attract more businesses into the fold and have plans for a food court. The DMV will stay through its lease which ends late next year. That’s when condo construction will take over. Not too shabby for a barren plaza in shambles that could only count 40 percent occupancy in 2015, a figure that further plummeted down to 10 percent last year with Orange County Hydroponics holding the fort from its nook hidden from street view.

Village Center’s getting a make over. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

Before being gutted by the Great Recession, Village Center stayed fairly stable throughout its history beginning in the 1980’s. It played host to several restaurants like Red Robin, Mimi’s Cafe and Acapulco’s in addition to an Edwards movie theater that my late abuela once dubbed “el chicloso” for its soda-stained sticky floors. But then a Ralph’s grocery store left Village Center and numerous small businesses followed. The restaurants that once thrived with diners later turned into the abandoned buildings that are now being demolished for Village Center’s revival. 

Driving down Beach in Stanton will begin to look a whole lot different in the future in more ways than one. The city brought in Hiccups restaurant and Churroholic, a duo of businesses that have established a strong clientele base in West Anaheim, to anchor the corner of Beach and Orangewood Avenue. Most important of all along Highway 39 is Village Center being brought back from the dead.

“Village Center is the largest development opportunity in Stanton,” says Hart. “The city is in a bit of a renaissance with all of the recent development activity.”

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

18 Replies to “Will Village Center’s Revival Help Make Stanton Great Again?”

  1. Stanton is over 75% hispanic . they do not spend money in stores or fast casual dining . they do not have $400,000 to $800,000 thousand dollars to buy tiny little condo’s . The Asian community ONLY spends money on Asian brands & Panda Express is NOT one of them . With in 15 to 20 years , history WILL repeat itself and it will be a large black eye on the city as you drive north on Beach in to Stanton. Thankfully I will have moved away by then into retirement

    1. F*ck you racist a**hole. Within 15 to 20 years hopefully you will be withered away in a retirement home slowly dying while the hardworking Hispanic and Asian residents enjoy their lives.

    2. Dante V
      Im Hispanic and i own my house and paid off ! Who do you think spends money in these communities We Do !! So before you start ranking your mouth about Hispanic and that we can’t afford 400 to $800 thousand dollars to a condo let me tell you something I own 4 houses ! 3 I rent out . So before you talk you should educate yourself first .You should take a ride around the area and you tell me if you see a Hispanic or Asian
      with a sign on garden grove blv and Beach begging for money ! Never would you see it because they work !!

      1. Mel,

        I once excited a freeway and on my right, there were several Latino men (my assumption) waiting around for people to come by to hire them for odd jobs, on my left was a Caucasian man with a sign asking for money. I do not know if he was a veteran or went through some bad times but it was an impactful sight for me. There are a lot of hardworking people out there but there are also a lot of people who give two shits. Doesn’t matter what race we are, there will be those two kinds of people in our own race.

  2. I think that this is all amazing news! I have lived in Westminster my whole life and used to shop at the Ralph’s, and eat at Red Robin and Mimis. That center was very convenient and am happy to see some of the restaurants and companies going into this plaza! I am amazed every day the transformation that has already occurred with hard working crews. With walmart market across the street and now Starbucks and sprint this section of beach blvd will be amazing!

  3. I’m just concerned about the homeless population in that area, and it might affect the new businesses!

  4. Stop the negativity! I think it’s a very good thing as it will bring employment and, yes, traffic, but I believe it’s worth it. This area has been mundane and unused for so long and I’m happy it’s finally being put to good use since in the 7 years I’ve lived in the area behind the DMV, there’s been nothing but a couple of restaurants that no longer exit there. Perhaps it will drive the homelessness away! Think positive people. You reap what you sow.

  5. Super excited to see this! I live in this neighborhood and have seen that property vacant for years. I am a little concerned about the homeless/drug addict problem in this area though. If the three motels on Garden Grove Blvd were removed, it would help the situation immensely.

  6. I think it’s great! I lived down the street on Ball Rd. for almost 22years and was so sad to see SAMS Club go!

    But in hopes that they finally can get that place renovated and looking good again.

  7. I didn’t live around here when there was a Ralph’s in there, so I was surprised to hear that because it would be a great location for a Ralph’s or a Trader Joe’s. There’s a hole in this area for both those businesses.

  8. I am very excited for the plaza ! I work at the dental office in the village center and our office has been in its same location for over 37 years.. Our business still managed to stay open even with the new construction going on right next door to us … we survived all the knocking down walls ,and loud bulldozing and couldn’t be more ecstatic about the new Shopping center ! Having to work full time with 3 babies is a lot of work, so hearing that our center will be gaining a planet fitness as one of the new tenants is defiantly more than wonderful to me ! I seriously find it so convenient and I don’t even have to drive there I can just step outside and walk over ☺️

  9. It’s nice to finally see this area getting much needed renovation … new stores and restaurant
    Yes Trader Joe’s would be a GREAT addition to the area…

  10. I have lived just down the street from the Village shopping center for over 20 years. When I moved into the neighborhood, my friends were impressed by all the shopping I could just walk to from my home. I watched the demise as Ralph’s left, then the pharmacy moved, then my cleaners closed and on and on for years. Mi Mi’s restaurant closing was a huge blow as they had been there all the years I had lived there. I saw a small bank closed and get turned into a Sizzler which later got flooded and never reopened. I am ecstatic to see the new shopping center rising from the ashes of the old. I have already signed up with Planet Fitness and can’t wait for Inn & Out to open. I also love Panda Express. My neighbor banks at Chase and now can walk down the street to the new branch. The new condos will sell. (New million dollar houses behind where I live are not even finished and are selling like crazy.) Stanton still needs a plan for housing our homeless, but things are looking up!

  11. Now if someone would just open a Winco where the old Sam’s Club was at Beach & Lampson, that would be awesome! As far as the new Village Center is concerned, it’s nice to see it come back to life again.

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