POMONA - By next October, Pomona residents will have a new shopping option - Target.

Planning Commission members last week approved a proposal calling for the construction of a shopping center in southern Pomona that will be anchored by a Target.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal for Rio Rancho Towne Center, which will be built on more than 36 acres east of the 71 Freeway. A large portion of property was once home to the Pomona Auto Center.

The project will straddle White Avenue and will be built in two phases. The eastern portion will be on the northeast corner of White Avenue and Auto Center Drive.

The western portion of the development will be bound by the 71 Freeway, Lexington Avenue and White.

Representatives of Lewis Retail Centers, which is developing the center, said the eastern part of the development will be built first.

"Our goal is to open a good portion of the shops and have Target open by October 2013," said Gary Bauer, the vice president of commercial development for Lewis Operating Corporation.

Chase Bank and Farmer Boys will be on the eastern side, Bauer said.

The names of other businesses will be announced in 60 to 90 days, he said.

The eastern portion of the center will consist of more than 15 acres and will accommodate the 139,500-square- foot Target store and 57,450 square feet of space dedicated to smaller stores and restaurants, a city staff report said.

Plans call for having a home- improvement retailer anchoring the 21 acres west of White Avenue, the staff report said. Smaller shops and a health club will complete that part of the development.

It's less clear when the western portion of the development will be completed.

That's because the city and the development firm are waiting for the state Department of Finance to determine if it will accept a development agreement between the city and the developers.

The agreement between the now-defunct Pomona redevelopment agency and the developers involves $1.4 million in agency assistance that would be used to relocate a storm drain that crosses the western side of the property.

When it comes to the western side of the project, "a lot hinges on what the state says," Bauer said.

A portion of the land, which is in private ownership, could still be used to accommodate a portion of the development, he said.

However, the development would be scaled back, Bauer said.

The eastern portion of the development will have a 139,500-square-foot Target store that will offer general merchandise and groceries.

The western side of the development will have a big-box store, possibly a home-improvement center, and space for stores and a health club.

An environmental analysis of the development found that air quality and noise will be problems during construction.

Of concern to some commission members was the development's effect on traffic congestion at neighboring off-ramps along a portion of the 71 Freeway.

City Engineer Ati Eskandari told commissioners that Caltrans is looking for ways to move up on its schedule the widening of the 71 Freeway and other improvements that would improve traffic circulation on city streets.

Timothy Reeves of Lewis Retail Centers said the company would be adding two traffic signals and taking other steps to address traffic around the development.

Downtown Pomona Business Owners Association President Carolyn Hemming spoke in support of the project.

"I welcome them here. I'm so happy to have them," she said.

Hemming asked if the store's shopping carts would use a system to keep them from being removed from the center.

Reeves said the retailer has a system that involves a system of sensors that will surround the parcel where the store will be built that will keep the carts from being taken off the property.

Commission members took several actions in relation to the project, including approving the certification of the environmental impact study for the project and approving conditional-use permits for the development. 

The development will benefit the city and its residents, said Frank Garcia, the executive director of the Pomona Chamber of Commerce.

When it comes to shopping, "people in Pomona have to go to Chino Hills, to Rancho Cucamonga and Montclair," he said.

With the new development, Pomona residents are going to have some shopping options within the city, Garcia said.

That will allow people to shop and leave their tax dollars in the city, he said.

The shopping center will also serve to attract new businesses into the city and bring exposure to existing small businesses, Garcia said.

"The small businesses will thrive as well," he said. "I think (the new development) will lift all boats."


Reach Monica via email or call her at 909-483-9336.