By Mayor Randy Johnson
It starts with a click. Then off to a fulfillment center in Tracy, San Bernardino or Stockton. And like magic, in a day or two, your headphones or your Fit Bit or even your daughter’s five prom dresses arrive at your front door.
When that doorbell rings, someone rushes to the delivery and within seconds the contents are displayed for all to see. Don’t need five prom dresses? Not a problem. Just send back the other four with a pre-addressed, pre-paid label.
Ecommerce… it’s what’s right for the busy mom who has no time to shop or the dad who needs a part for his 1967 Camaro that would be impossible to find at a local dismantler. Welcome to the world of Amazon Prime.
For millions of online devotees, “You make shopping fun.” That is at least what a friend told me when describing his newfound pleasure of finding things online and buying them. No longer a reluctant tag-along with his wife on mall centric shopping excursions, he has a credit card and he knows how to use it. It’s little wonder that retail stores are going the way of the buggy whip and shopping centers all over the country are struggling.
For years our plans for a Scotts Valley Town Center have revolved around three main components: Retail shops and stores, residential housing, and a public gathering space. With the assault of online shopping, however, I believe our city has to take a hard look at the configuration of its prior plans.
Ten years ago we were so very close to having the ideal blend of shops, public space and housing. That project had a heavy concentration of higher end women’s’ fashions, with stores like Chico’s and Jones of New York. The 2008 recession scuttled that dream and we have been trying to cobble together a successful formula since then.
Commercial Developers, however, are cautious investors and the trends for lifestyle projects are not favorable. “Can’t Miss” established retailers are closing stores all over the country: Radio Shack (1,430 stores) — Payless Shoes (800) — Office Depot (400) — Wet Seal (338) — Staples (228) — Jones Group (170) — Gap (140) — Macy’s (16) — The Limited… If we had built 120,000 square feet of retail in 2009, our consultants tell us that 10-20% would now be vacant. Nothing worse than dozens of vacant stores haunting a town center.
In October I will attend the annual shopping center convention (ICSC) in Los Angeles. In the past, I have met with scores and scores of retailers and developers. I have come close to begging an “In-N-Out Burger” rep to come visit our city, and they have on several occasions. Not interested mostly because they were concentrating on Arizona and Texas. We will continue to explore opportunities with a variety of retailers, but we will be open to smaller, more unique enterprises that may want to find their way to Scotts Valley.
In 2016 people spent more in restaurants and bars than in grocery stores. Food and drink will have to play a big part in our plans for the heart of our city.
A brewpub and restaurant is breaking ground this month and with a performing arts center moving forward with its plans, incremental progress will be made. We will continue to have a dialogue with the City of Santa Cruz as they own over 6 acres of land and we will be open to new ideas for this perplexing and difficult property.
By the way, I think a daughter should be able to invite her mother for lunch and an afternoon of shopping and conversation. All the better if they could do it right here in Scotts Valley. Preferable to click, click, click, don’t you think?