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Changing face of downtown E.C.

December 15, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Take a stroll through downtown El Centro and you can't help but notice some changes.

Two buildings have taken on new looks as part of the city's facade program, including Brooks Jewelry in the 500 block of Main and The Downtown Professional Center, in the 700 block.

The latter is undergoing about $750,000 in changes that cannot be seen from the outside. Of that, a significant portion is going toward seismic retrofitting. Another $100,000 has been spent on the rear parking lot and $60,000 on the building's façade.

The city's Redevelopment Agency is covering about $10,000 of the façade costs, according to Teodora Arteaga, the building owner's operations manager.


"We're very grateful to the city," she said.

The approximately 34,000- square-foot building is owned by Ethan Marcus of Marcus Family Law Center, whose holding company is May Investments LLC of El Centro.

The business moved into the former Sears & Roebuck building in August 2000, Arteaga said.

During a tour of the building, it is obvious lots of work was under way.

A number of suites are being built. The building will include different floor types, including carpet, stained concrete, hard wood and Mexican tiles. The old fashion ceilings, where possible, are being kept. New electrical wires are being strung. The rear parking lot was paved, striped and shaded. The building will include office space on a mezzanine and available storage space in the basement. Each suite of offices will include kitchen space, Arteaga said.

"We hope to make it plush but affordable," she said.

Poway-based Tenant Space Inc. did the parking lot improvements, painting and façade, and is doing the seismic upgrades.

Of the downtown changes, Mayor Larry Grogan said the city's facade program is making the changes possible.

"It's a tremendous boon to downtown," he said. "It's a program that helps keep downtown revitalized and reawakens the desire to go downtown."

Two of the tenants are Premiere Wireless and J&L Sportswear, which is ready to expand.

Premiere's 588 Main St. location is the business' third, with locations in Brawley and Yuma, according to store manager Carlos Roachow. It was previously located in the 500 block of Main.

Roachow said Premiere offers cellular phone and paging services.

One of its newest devices is a so-called two-way paging device that allows sending and receiving of messages to other users, and email. The device, called a T900 Talkabout, has a small keyboard. The service comes with 1,500 messages per month and can receive news updates from such information agencies as Dow Jones. The cost is $99 and $19.99 monthly.

Premiere offers a variety of cellular plans through Cellular One. Roachow said the most popular cellular plan is $39.99 a month, with 2,000 minutes. It includes a free digital phone, leather case, car charger, ear piece, free call waiting, free call forwarding, free long distance to anywhere in the United States, free three-way conference calls and the first minute of incoming calls is free.

A current promotion for its pager service is $6 monthly, or $40 for a year, and includes voice mail.

Meanwhile, down the street, Brooks Jewelry has undergone a significant change.

Owner Larry Bratton said he heard about computer-assisted remodeling and decided to see how the building would look in various color schemes. To take advantage of the city's facade program, he had to agree to make changes under the program's guidelines.

Bratton settled on what he calls a southwest color scheme.

The work cost about $16,000, and the RDA is expected to cover half the expenses. The business sign refurbishment was performed by El Centro-based Southwest Sign Systems.

Bratton said the second floor of the building has been reopened with housewares, cutlery, cooking supplies, kitchen supplies, bar ware and specialty furniture.

Bratton said the store is open extended holiday hours and Sunday.

>>Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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