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An oil drilling rig was erected Monday in a vacant lot at the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue to re-vacate an oil well that was once operated by the A.F. Gilmore Co., the owner of the Original Farmers Market.
Workers will be using the drilling rig to re-access the well, clean it out and place a new cap at the site in preparation for a development project the A.F. Gilmore Co. is planning at the northwest corner of 3rd and Fairfax. The oil well was originally drilled in 1910 and later abandoned and capped in 1928. No problems have occurred with the well, according to A.F. Gilmore vice president, Mark Panatier, but the new work was necessary to comply with regulations of the California Division of Oil and Gas, and to allow the development project to move forward.
“It had been there all these years, just underground,” Panatier said. “It had been abandoned to the standards of 1928, but because we are building the project, we have to drill it out and clean it out and re-plug it with cement.”
Panatier said the well is one of many on the A.F. Gilmore property, and in the surrounding area, although he did not have an exact number. He said it is common for the wells to have to be re-capped when projects begin. Some additional wells had to be re-drilled and re-plugged when the Farmers Market Self Storage was built last year, and others had to be re-capped when The Grove was built. The A.F. Gilmore Company was a leader in oil production in the early 1900s, and had numerous oil wells on the land between 3rd Street and Beverly Boulevard where CBS Television City, The Grove and the Original Farmers Market are now located.
Panatier said the drilling and re-capping should take between 10 days and three weeks. The company hopes to begin construction on the new project early next year.
The new development will occupy land that includes the vacant lot on the corner, and the former site of Mordigan Nurseries. A specialty market or pharmacy, three retail spaces, a restaurant and plaza, and a parking lot with 111 spaces will make up the new site. The project is not an expansion of the Original Farmers Market, but is designed to bring new retail and dining opportunities to the neighborhood. The A.F. Gilmore Company has owned the property for years, and it was formerly used seasonally as a Christmas tree lot and pumpkin patch. No tenants have been selected for the new development, and Panatier said the specialty market or pharmacy component will be similar in size to the Cost Plus store that is currently located on the north side of the Farmers Market complex.
The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has approved the entitlements for the project, but a design will have to be approved at a later meeting. A hearing on conditional use permits for alcohol sales at the store and restaurant was held on Monday, and a decision is pending. He said the company hopes to have permits for both on and off-site alcohol sales at the market and restaurant, and said the idea is to allow a specialty market to hold wine tastings in-store and also sell alcoholic beverages for off-site consumption. Panatier said the project’s design phase and planning will continue while the work on the oil well is completed.
“We will proceed and make some minor adjustments to the plans, and hope to get started on the construction in the early part of 2011 is everything goes well,” Panatier added.
The project has been well received by some members of the community, and is supported by the Mid City West Community Council (MCWCC).
“I think it will be beneficial to the community,” said Jeff Jacobberger, chair of the MCWCC. “My personal feeling is there is something unsightly about vacant lots, especially at major intersections like that. I think what they are building is much smaller than would could have gone there by right, so I think it will be a good project for the neighborhood.”
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