The carcass of a Burger King drive-thru display, the worn paint bearing the footprint of a long-gone Baskin Robbins sign and an abandoned supermarket space all call Castaic Village home.
The sprawling shopping center on the northeast corner of Lake Hughes and Castaic roads used to have a number of businesses, but since a Ralphs grocery store closed in March 2014, the center has seen a sharp decline. Three months later, in June 2014, a Rite Aid closed after the company decided not to renew a lease.
“Since then, the occupancy at this center has declined,” said Jack Crawford, who manages the UPS Store in the shopping center. “The current owners seem to be making more of an effort to get businesses in here, but they’re looking at more non-traditional, non-retail. At least, that’s what they’ve brought in so far.”
Dean and Gwen Gallion, the former owners of Gallions Corner market, both said the area’s growth did not match what was originally anticipated.
“The building quit so, consequently, they couldn’t keep the businesses going,” Gwen Gallion said.
Dean added: “The growth in Castaic slowed down from what they thought they had.”
Business owners noted some of the smaller businesses started to close when the housing market crashed in 2008, but the decline was accelerated in 2014 with the closure of the anchor stores. A Chase bank is also among the locations that have closed.
“The Ralphs didn’t completely surprise us just because it happened after they built the new one down at Hasley Canyon,” Crawford said. “Realistically, we didn’t expect Ralphs would have two stores that close together in one community.”
Crawford said there had been rumors of a Food 4 Less or storage facility, but nothing has been made official or announced.
“When Ralphs was here and Rite Aid was here, this center went well,” he said. “There was a time when this center was full, the (location) where Starbucks is was full, the (location) where Walgreens is was full.”
When asked what most of his customers would want, some of whom travel from residences in Frazier Park and Pine Mountain Club to use Castaic businesses, Crawford said a grocery store.
“The biggest thing would be to have a supermarket of some type, whether it’s one of the main stores like an Albertsons or a Vons, or whether it is a Food 4 Less or a Vallarta,” Crawford said. “All of those have been mentioned. They would just like to have a supermarket at this end of Castaic.”
Crawford said businesses want the supermarket to draw traffic in, while residents want a more convenient place to shop.
“With the Northlake development moving forward, slower than we would all like to see, but it is continuing to move forward. I think with that, the high school moving forward, I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about,” he said. “It’s just that it’s a couple years out.”
Crawford estimated that time to be shortly before the Great Recession housing crash, which also tripped up the buildout of the proposed Northlake development.
“There were problems with the Northlake development at that time,” he said. “It was a domino effect after that.”
Calls to several brokers at NAI Capital, the company that has been trying to attract businesses to the shopping center, were not returned.
Hope for Northlake
Crawford and several other Castaic residents said the town’s economic future hinges on Northlake, a 3,150-home planned community on 1,330 acres between Interstate 5 and Castaic Lake. The first phase of the development’s specific plan is up for a vote before the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission at 9 a.m. Feb. 21 in the Hall of Records in downtown Los Angeles.
The development is broken up into two phases, the first totaling 720 acres consisting of 1,974 units, most of which are multi-family apartments, a fire station, nearly 415 acres of open space and about 20 acres of mixed commercial and industrial use. A second phase will be built later.
Castaic Town Council member Jeff Preach said he was optimistic about Northlake, but aware of the extensive approval process.
“It takes an act of God to get something approved,” he said.
When asked about Castaic Village, Preach said he was sympathetic for a number of area businesses and schools, many of which are well below capacity.
“Poor guys, how they’re hanging on, I don’t even know,” he said. “I bet half the town is vacant.”
Preach called the Northlake development “a huge savior” and “a huge asset.”
“It’s not rocket science, we need more housetops,” he said. “This town needs to be prosperous again.”
When asked if there was any formal opposition in town to Northlake, Preach said he did not know and that Northlake representatives regularly attend town council meetings.
“I’m not aware of anybody who is against it,” he said.
Calls to representatives for Northlake were not returned Monday.