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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Proposed Outdoor Shopping Hub Could Help Westminster Reboot its Economy  

Westminster’s Little Saigon neighborhood could soon be home to a new initiative officials hope will lead the city to an economic rebound.

The city wants to turn part of the area into an outdoor shopping and dining hub that could help struggling local businesses grow sales. Stores and eateries would be allowed to use the space on a rotating basis.

Such an initiative could  help the businesses survive the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by reaching new markets, boosting sales, and providing a safe outdoor space, the report says.

“While everyone is hopeful continuing safety practices such as social distancing and masks, combined with vaccination distribution will help the community return to ‘normal,’ recovery is likely to be slow and available funding remains insufficient to directly support all businesses and residents,” the Feb. 24 agenda item says.

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“With this information and the direction received from the city council, staff has been working towards conceptual development of an outdoor plaza with pergolas and/or canopies for retail vending booth spaces, modular kitchen units parked on the site, and a series of tables and chairs for dining or relaxing.”

The idea was originally presented by councilmember Kimberly Ho during a Jan. 24 council meeting. Council approved city staff to look into the item and seek a financial agreement from the County of Orange, which would provide approximately $500,000 for the project.

If council decides to move forward, officials will continue working to draft a financial agreement with the county, the report says.

Council aims to have the space feel semi-permanent and last about six months, depending on funding. Spaces may be filled through a lottery depending on popularity from local businesses, although there will always be a variety of offerings at the booths to ensure an interesting consumer experience.

“While safety measures must be implemented, the goal of the program is to promote local businesses, therefore the project should capitalize on the existing business community, while having a level of distinction to make it special, something people will seek out with regularity,” the agenda noted.

While the idea of having a modular kitchen is new, other cities in the county have had similar ideas. The city of Laguna Beach shut down a public street in order to help outdoor dining and other small businesses, and Huntington Beach has shut down part of Main Street for similar reasons.

Westminster city council will vote on where to hold the location during its upcoming Feb. 24 meeting, though the agenda notes that Little Saigon may be the best opportunity due to its high level of business density in the city.

City staff currently recommends a part of Little Saigon where a building experienced a fire and is expected to be demolished by its property owner. According to the agenda, the area would provide 14,000 square feet and has easy access to water and sewer hookups.


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