The complex of low-slung buildings at 835 East El Monte St. was the birthplace of many Frisbees, Hula Hoops, Super Balls and Slip-N-Slides.
Later it spawned Sriracha chili sauce and an international craze.
In some ways it put San Gabriel on the map.
Now, one of the city’s most iconic industrial sites, formerly occupied by Wham-O and Huy Fong Foods, will be demolished next week to make way for 88 new townhouses.
“It’s so many memories that will be going down with that building,” said Mary Cammarano, president of the San Gabriel Historical Association.
The development is one of more than a dozen proposed for the city in the coming years, including three major hotels planned within a mile of one another on a stretch of Valley Boulevard, known as “The Golden Mile.” Other developments in the works include the Skycourts on San Gabriel Boulevard, the Mission View Plaza on Las Tunas Drive and the Las Tunas Regency on Las Tunas Drive.
Olson Company President and CEO Scott Laurie said the townhouse project is scheduled to begin demolition next week and will be completed by early next year.
“It will be one of the largest new home projects that has been built within any of those cities (in the area) in many years,” Laurie said. “It’s going to be a beautiful community. We think it will be different from anything that’s been developed because of the scale and the type of product we’ll be building there.”
In order to preserve the site’s rich history, The Olson Company development will include a tribute to Huy Fong and Wham-O, city Planning Manager Mark Gallatin said.
“They are going to have to include in their project some artwork, either a statue or a plaque or something, that pays homage to the industrial history of the site,” Gallatin said. “So it might be a statue of a rooster with a Hula Hoop or something.”
Wham-O began manufacturing at site in the 1950s, Gallatin said, but moved out in the early 1980s.
Huy Fong Foods took over in 1986 but moved out over the last few years and into a state-of-the-art factory in Irwindale. After purchasing its new facility, Huy Fong Foods sold the site to The Olson Company, which has done various residential projects throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
The property straddles the city line between San Gabriel and Rosemead, divided by the Rubio Wash. Gallatin said the building on the Rosemead portion of the property, where Huy Fong did the majority of its production, will remain zoned for industrial use based on a decision by the city council. The Olson Company plans to sell the 77,000-square-foot warehouse space on the Rosemead side, Gallatin said.
The San Gabriel side, home to the original Wham-O building, which Huy Fong used for storage and other uses, will be the site for 88 three-story townhomes.
Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran said he didn’t feel sad that the old site was changing.
“It’s good. Every city they don’t want industrial they want more sales tax for the business or the housing. San Gabriel has almost no more industrial,” Tran said. “We needed to expand. It was difficult to keep one or two or three buildings, but under one roof it’s better.”
Community members said they were sad to see a piece of the city’s history go, but said homes will be much more beneficial to the city than an empty building.
“I think the condos are a good thing because they are going to bring money into the city,” longtime resident Sabino Cici said. “We need the money for our infrastructure. Development is the only way to bring in revenue anymore.”
Author Lauren Gold
Only a few homes remain at Compass Walk in Placentia. Homeowners have already moved in and are calling Compass Walk home. These homes are centrally located to shopping, dining and entertainment. Homes offer 3 to 4 bedrooms and 2.5 to 3 baths in up to 2,181 square feet of living space. Stop in today to tour the model and purchase one of the remaining homes.
The Olson Company was highlighted in a recent issue of Builder Magazine.
Metrostudy says: The Olson Co. is the most significant builder of urban infill housing in California. They specialize in introducing product to unique, often built-out urban areas while staying focused on gentrification and changing demographics.
During the housing downturn, executives at The Olson Co. watched as overall unit count shrank from a high of 787 in 2006 to 126 in 2010. As the market hit bottom, company executives looked to the firm’s past for inspiration.
Founded 26 years ago as a builder of high-density urban communities in California, the company expanded in the 1990s into luxury suburban and urban developments outside of its core Orange County market. Post-recession, company leaders decided to return to Steve Olson’s original vision of in-town, affordable, transit-based housing for first-time and move-up buyers in urban Los Angeles and Orange County, and the strategy is paying off. Last year the company grew 66 percent doing what it does best: building small-lot attached and detached townhomes in more than 90 cities including Fountain Valley, La Verne, Alhambra, and Fullerton.
“We’ve adhered to our original strategy of building affordable homes in areas that are within walking distance to schools, retail, and parks to reduce our buyers’ commute time,” says CEO Scott Laurie (pictured). “As prices moved up we’ve moved up our prices, but we still try to be the low-price leader for new housing within the marketplace.”
The company leverages its long-standing relationships with local municipalities to help acquire land parcels in desirable areas. “We always go in to a city saying ‘How can we solve your problems?’” he says. “The way we separate ourselves from the competition is that we are full-service, from entitlements and rezoning through buildout.”
The builder has nabbed 15 Eliant Awards for home buyer satisfaction in the past three years by keeping close tabs on what buyers want in a new home. For instance, Olson includes solar standard in some areas and all projects are certified to LEED for Homes. Developments with feng shui elements are a hit with Asian buyers, who make up to 76 percent of buyers in some areas. “When you look at what we do, we have a very good understanding of who the buyer is and where we should and shouldn’t be building,” Laurie says.—Jennifer Goodman
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On August 8th, Plaza Walk celebrated a Ribbon Cutting with the Pro Tem City Mayor, Cerritos Chamber of Commerce and City Council. The model grand opened on August 2nd and is already getting quite an interest. Stop in to view the model home and reserve your homesite today! Models are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
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Come out and visit us this weekend and get a peek at what Linden Walk is all about. The Sales office is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. Stop by or call 562-370-9504 for details.