Fifty years after Monrovia moved its wholesale nursery operation from the city of Monrovia, Calif., to neighboring Azusa, it has sold a majority of the property and has begun moving propagation and plants to its other nurseries.
“Back in 1954 when Monrovia moved the nursery to Azusa, this area was primarily agricultural, with numerous commercial nurseries and citrus groves,” explained Dennis Connor, general manager. “By the 1990s Monrovia remained the only agricultural entity in a community that had grown tremendously in population. The nursery is now surrounded by homes, a college and shopping centers. It makes much more sense to locate our growing fields in an agricultural region of the state.”
Ten years ago, anticipating an eventual move out of Azusa, Monrovia purchased a large parcel near Visalia, Calif., which is about 200 miles north of Azusa. This nursery has about 400 acres in production and with the closing of Azusa, will expand by 200-300 acres. The climate is similar to Azusa, so Visalia is where Monrovia will grow plants suited to more temperate climates. The company’s Dayton, Ore., nursery (about 50 miles south of Portland) will expand by about 50 acres, and its La Grange, N.C., nursery by about 25 acres, growing some of the more cold-hardy crops.
Monrovia’s corporate headquarters will remain in Azusa, the same place that has served as the executive offices for 50 years. This will include senior management, marketing, human resources and finance. Three acres of gardens surrounding the office will remain as well.
Part of the Azusa nursery included about 100 acres in the neighboring city of Glendora, Calif. For the time being, that parcel will be used for propagation of some large volume crops. The tissue culture laboratory will be relocated to Oregon.
“We will still be growing the same volume of plants, and we see no change in our ability to deliver to our customers. About two-thirds of the plants we sell within California go to garden centers in Northern California, so the Visalia nursery is actually more convenient,” Connor noted.
The move affected 430 full-time craftsmen at the Azusa nursery. Each of those individuals was offered a transfer to any of the other locations, including an incentive and moving expenses. Understandably, some people cannot move due to family obligations, and they have been offered a generous severance package.
“At Monrovia, we refer to our workers as craftsmen,” said Connor. “The talented craftsmen who work at the nursery are highly skilled, and most have been with Monrovia for 20, 30 and even 40 years. We are very motivated to keep as many of these craftsmen within the Monrovia family as we can.”
The sale of the 500-acre property was finalized in September 2004. Development of the site and grading operations are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2005. It has been approved for development of 1,250 homes, 50,000 sq.ft. of retail, street improvements, a new K-8 school, numerous parks, a community recreation center, a new fire station, a transit center for future Foothill expansion of the Metro Gold Line, and street and slope landscaping.
“It is rare to find such a large parcel of land available for sale in a highly populated region in Southern California,” Conner said. “Developers were eager to purchase the entire parcel of land so they could develop more than just a few houses. Now they will be able to create an entire community.”
The move will occur in three phases: The first phase has begun, with the dismantling of buildings and equipment. This phase will be completed by April 1, 2005. Phase 2 will be completed by July 1, 2005, and the final phase, the propagation area, will be moved by December 1, 2005.
Monrovia worked closely with the City of Azusa and their Historical Commission to document the history of the property. A historical overview video was produced and photo library compiled. In addition, several of the historical structures, such as the headquarters building and the entry gates, will be preserved.