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September 2nd, 2009Strip mall owner being selective with tenants

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by Barbara Soderlin

Mario Rangel could have filled one of the several empty storefronts in his strip mall with a casino by now. Instead, he’s being selective.

“That area of town has the potential to grow in two ways –- the right way, and the wrong way,” said Rangel of the Cuatro Vistas mall on North.

Rangel and other business owners on the street say a video lottery casino would be a step backward for a neighborhood whose retail options have improved and expanded in recent years.

“I think the street has the potential for the ‘East North Street’ businesses to come in and we don’t want that. Pawn shops, casinos -– they really are meant to feed off the less fortunate people,” Rangel said.

Not only does Rangel want to keep casinos out of his own mall, he opposes them elsewhere in the North Haines retail strip. He sent a letter to the city opposing the inclusion of a video lottery casino across the street, in a new four-storefront strip mall occupied so far by a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.

The city council’s legal and finance committee will take up the matter Wednesday, Sept. 2.

One issue it will weigh is the degree to which the government should shape retail development. Casino opponents say city aldermen should use their discretion, rule against the casino and steer development toward what are seen as more neighborhood-friendly retailers.

But the company that wants to put in the casino believes there’s a market for its business, that many residents do want the opportunity to play video lottery in that neighborhood and that the market should decide.

“If I don’t succeed there, within 12 to 15 months, I’ll be closed and I’ll be gone,” said Troy Erickson, vice president of MG Oil, which is seeking to transfer one of its on-sale liquor licenses to that location.

“You 12 people who don’t like it, you don’t have to go there,” he said. “Maybe I don’t like J.C. Penney’s but I don’t try to put J.C. Penney’s out of business.”

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