LA VERNE - La Verne Village took its first physical step to becoming reality on Thursday.

The City Council, Mayor Don Kendrick, congressional candidate Gary Miller and others gathered Thursday morning to break out shovels and hold a ground breaking ceremony for the project, expected to start construction in mid-month.

"Companies and individuals have choices about where they go and what they do," Kendrick said at the ground breaking while holding a shovel in the dirt.

"And the Hutton company has decided that La Verne is a place they would like to create something of value for themselves and for the community."

The property is a former Ford and Hyundai dealership that was demolished. It's being remade into a 172 multi-family apartment project that includes 26 moderate-level affordable units.

The property, at 2777-2855 Foothill Blvd., would also have 15,000 square feet of commercial retail space.

Hutton Companies purchased the property from Jeanne Gillette who with her late husband David operated citrus groves until the late 60s, said Jeanne's son David Gillette.

"It was a car dealership for 30 years and agricultural before that," Gillette said. "My father bought it in `53 or `54. "

Neither David or Scott Felix, vice president of Hutton Companies, would say what the purchase price was.

Felix said his company had been working on the development with the city for about two years.


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Felix said he had worked with the family for three years for the $45 million project.

"They've managed it through three different distinct land uses," Felix said. "Originally agriculture, then a car dealership for about 30 years and now through what's now to become La Verne Village. And you don't see that every day. They've been in this valley for several generations."

"We're looking forward to providing quality rental housing in this market that does not exist," he said. "For a product similar as this, you would have to drive to Monrovia to the west to find or east about four or five miles on the other side of Claremont. We're really providing a type of product that is not in this market."

The project was approved by City Council on May 30, 2011.

Councilman Robert Rodriguez, who has spent 30 years on the council, said he was looking forward to the project.

"I'm not sad," Rodriguez said, when asked if he would miss the dealership.

Brian McNerney, president/CEO at La Verne Chamber of Commerce, said the project would be a "shot in the arm" and create jobs and living units.

The project is scheduled to open the first quarter of 2014, Felix said.

Anyone interested in the village as a potential resident or business owner can join an interest list at http://huttoncompanies.com/.

wes.woods@inlandnewspapers.com 909-483-8549