New Anaheim Youth Center Focuses on Business, Entrepreneurial Development

Google Streets

A Google Street view of the Northgate Market.

Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at squick@voiceofoc.org.

A now closed, historic Anaheim shopping mart will pay respects to its founder and serve as a new business learning center for youth, the first of its kind in the city.

The site will become the eleventh community center in the city, but is only the second to be a youth focused location. The other similar site concentrates on sports and after-school programs.

The City Council unanimously approved $1 million from the general fund to turn the former Northgate Market into a youth center that teaches entrepreneurial and business skills, making good on the wishes of the owners of the market for how the space could be used and bringing much-needed services to the neighborhood.

The now-vacant building at 722 N. Anaheim Blvd., was the first of the Northgate Market chain of Latino grocery stores founded by Don Miguel González Jiménez in 1980. Now, Northgate has more than 40 stores across Southern California.

In 2017, the original location closed as a new Northgate Market opened in the city, but the González family still wanted the building to serve the community after its closing.

“As an immigrant and businessman myself, I know what a difference a project like this can have on a young person’s life,” said Mayor Harry Sidhu. “We have a chance to make good on the desire for the González family.”

The 1.1-acre property was bought by the city’s Community and Economic Development Department for $4.8 million using Community Development Block Grant money in 2017, soon after Northgate Market closed. Then in September, the council approved spending the $1 million to convert the building into a youth learning center.

An Anaheim youth assessment study reported a lack of community amenities for teenagers in the city, fueling the decision to turn the old market into a youth center, Councilman Jose Moreno said at the council meeting last month. Services at the site will be provided by local organizations, the Small Business Development Center and Youth Interactive, where they will teach youth focused business classes.

“We hope this program will teach kids about potentially starting their own business in this gig economy where there are so many new avenues for them,” city spokesman Mike Lyster said.

Anaheim’s home to 351,043, with Latinos making up 53.8% of the population, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

“One of the most effective ways to create and grow local economies is investment in immigrant entrepreneurship,” Moreno said.

Construction at the venue, titled the Northgate Learning Center Project, starts in late 2019. The center is expected to open to the public in 2020.

The next City Council meeting will take place at 5 p.m on Oct. 22.