Tenants of the Miracle Shopping Center at 9th Street and Palm Avenue are required to vacate the property by March 14 as part of a redevelopment project that has relocated or closed 14 businesses.
Save-A-Lot, formerly Save-U-Foods, closed Friday.
Plans to demolish and rebuild the shopping center will continue once the building is empty and the City completes an environmental impact report, according to Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency director Gerry Selby.
Jim Sides, a former tenant and co-owner of Inner Visions Smoke Shop, said he is concerned for residents who rely on the low prices at Save-U-Foods and do not have a car to drive elsewhere.
“The ones that ride their bikes and carry their groceries on the handlebars,” he explained.
“There are a lot of low-income people in IB who will be effected,” said Carol Colbert, a 35-year resident of IB who was shopping with her daughter Teresa at Save-A-Lot Friday.
“It’s going to be a struggle to survive, just getting diapers and food,” said Teresa, who does not own a car.
Save-A-Lot’s general manager Abraham, who declined to give his last name, agrees many of the store’s patrons rely on government assistance like the WIC nutrition program or EBT public assistance and will be affected by the closure.
After Save-A-Lot's closure, two other businesses that sell fruits and vegetables remain in Imperial Beach. In addition, a is held every Friday from 2-6 p.m.
The relocation process has carried on longer than others of its kind, Selby said, and Save-A-Lot, Goodwill and Southbay Drugs were supposed to be out by the end of February.
"I have no more time to give them,” Selby said. "We've got a developer going forward, tearing down in late spring, April to June."
The Imperial Beach City Council, which also act as the city's redevelopment agency, purchased the complex at 9th Street and Palm Avenue for $9.6 million in 2009.
Relocation is being coordinated by Epic Land Solutions. After the building is demolished, Sudberry Properties has agreed to build a new shopping center. A contract between Sudberry and the redevelopment agency is still being negotiated, Selby said.
New tenants of the redeveloped property will be determined by the IB City General Plan and the IB Redevelopment Plan, which stipulates that a brand-name grocery store and businesses serving niche markets be included.
Demographics, the number of families and the number of other local competitors, like the Vons on Saturn Avenue or Wally's across the street will be taken into account he said.
Current potential tenants are the Fresh & Easy, Starbucks and Panda Express chain stores, as well as other locally-owned or franchised businesses, like a dry-cleaner and hair salon, he said.
At the Dec. 15 City Council meeting, an exclusive negotiation agreement between the IB Redevelopement Agency and Sudberry was extended another 120 days to await an agreement with Caltrans over how to include direct access onto the property.
The new design will allow patrons traveling in both directions on State Route 75 to access the new shopping center once the intersection at Delaware Street is reconstructed, Selby said.
“The demographics in IB are prohibitive to the kinds of businesses that will move in there. That’s silly to me” said Debbie Sydes, a former tenant and owner of Inner Visions Smoke Shop.
She used the Chili's restaurant chain as an example of a business that could afford to pay rent in the new shopping center, but the restaurant would need people who make more than a $30,000 median household income to justify opening a restaurant.
Mike Hayward, 47, of Imperial Beach is “a Blues man” who used to play the guitar at New Song Church, a part of the shopping center until a few years ago.
Hayward has shopped at Save-A-Lot or Save-U-Foods since he came to town 10 years ago and plans to continue shopping at their nearest location in Chula Vista.
“Trying to get by on less than $30,000 and support a family is not easy,” he said.
“Everybody I know in IB counts on it,” he said. “The people that are even poorer then I am are kind of screwed.”
He went on to call City Council "a bunch of property developing land barons.
"They don’t want modest earners and poverty level residency,” he said. "They want this to be Coronado Junior."
“They want this to be Eastlake or get that miniature Orange County look, where everything looks homogenized and the same,” he said.
Hayward said he enjoys the city's diversity, from families to bikers to Navy SEALS, low riders and the average Joes "that slide down the dinosaur tail when the whistle blows,” he said, making a reference to The Flinstones.
“You’ll see a guy who looks like Santa Claus ride out on a '56 Panhead [Harley Davidson]," he said.
“I like IB. I like seeing a fat guy with a beard.”