Tomorrow night, Walnut Creek City Council members will take in different viewpoints on the controversial proposal to build a new two-story, 92,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus in Broadway Plaza. The council will consider staff analysis, pro-project recommendations from the Planning Commission, and public testimony. You can read the staff analysis and pro- and anti-viewpoints here.
No decisions will be made tomorrow night. The city council needs to wait at least until after May 5, when they will listen to pro- and anti-project appeals that have been filed regarding the project. Macerich Co., the owner of Broadway Plaza, filed to pro-project appeal, saying it is a matter of “significant public interest," according to the Contra Costa Times.
The anti-project appeal was filed by residents Ed Dimmick, Selma King, and Ann Hinshaw, who are also suing the city over the environmental impact report. Dimmick’s other big concern is whether the new luxury retailer will provide enough additional parking for downtown Walnut Creek to accommodate its new customers.
The Texas-based retailer really, really, really wants to come to Walnut Creek. Macerich Co. really, really, really wants to add it to its Broadway Plaza retail lineup, as shown by mailers sent out to city residents. Fellow Walnut Creek blogger, The DUBC refers to the mailers as an example of Macerich waging a full-court press to get this project approved.
The city also really, really, really wants this Neiman Marcus.
As I’ve said before, I’m neutral about whether Neiman Marcus comes to Walnut Creek. I just thought Macerich and the city mishandled the proposal and approval of the initial project, especially in thinking residents would go for Macerich's idea of accommodating new Neiman customers by transforming the five-story public garage in Broadway Plaza into valet parking on weekends and during holiday shopping season.
It also bothered me that Neiman Marcus seemed to be getting special concessions, with regard to not having to provide additional parking, that are not afforded to other new business construction projects. That struck me as unfair.
The city and Macerich wasted a lot of time, money and effort pushing the initial through so quickly. They should have listened to a voice of reason. No, not me, but Contra Costa Times columnist Daniel Borenstein who, in a thoughtful September 13, 2008 commentary, questioned whether the council’s haste to approve this project—rejecting a fair amount of vocal opposition—was a case of the city risking “the goose that laid the golden egg.” He advised everyone slow things down and carefully consider the pros and cons of the project.
The city didn’t listen. The lawsuit was filed, a successful petition drive was launched which put the issue up to a city vote, and Neiman Marcus had to go back to the drawing board, find ways to scale down its project and make parking available to residents and employees.