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By Jim Shilander

In two separate votes, the Planning Commission approved new signage for the first phase for the refurbished Estrella Plaza shopping center Monday, voting unanimously to allow for monument signage along Camino de Estrella and for signs along the north-facing facade of the former Kmart building for Sports Authority, Stein Mart and Sprouts to be larger than normally allowed by the city’s sign program.

The commission split, however, on a proposal to allow a 158-square-foot freeway-facing sign on the southeast corner of the building, ultimately voting 4-3 in favor. Sports Authority had asked for the sign, and the developer of the property had been given indications that without a freeway sign it might terminate its lease. Commissioners who favored the sign admitted to doing so reluctantly, and expressed doubt that the sign, which, according to the developer’s visual simulations, would only be visible briefly on northbound Interstate 5 and on the southbound on ramp, would be very effective, but said they wanted to provide the businesses in the center every opportunity to succeed in an area that has proven difficult. Sports Authority would be the only tenant allowed to have the freeway-oriented sign.

Sign plans for the second phase of the project, including a proposed TJ Maxx store in the former Big Lots space, will likely come before the commission soon. The developer are tentatively hopes to open Sprouts by Thanksgiving.

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