April 20, 2009

Another Neiman Marcus hearing coming to a WC City Council chamber near you

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.


Anonymous said...

If the powers that be really really want this,why not build something that meets the standards set forth in the General Plan? Macerich knew what the guidelines were for that location, why not build something that followed them? Who encouraged them to present a plan that was 3 times the size recommended for that site? It wasn't the 5,000 residents who signed the petition.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to shop there, and eat in their cafe!

Anonymous said...

Ching Chong Bing Bong.

Arl your stores are berong to us.

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely in favor of a Neiman Marcus in downtown Walnut Creek. While I don't shop there myself, plenty of people do, so it'll bring much-needed $$$ into the town, both from the store itself and likely via neighboring stores, restaurants, cinemas and other businesses. Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

So we sell ourselves to the highest bidder (called prostitution in most circles). Is this any way to run a City?

Those of us who live near the downtown area are impacted more by growth of the shopping districts. We have already seen the further instrusion of multi-family living units into our neighborshoods and more will come as the mall expands.

The addition of Neiman Marcus would be fine if they could fit into the General Plan as it was painstakingly finished just 2 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone watch the lovefest between Macerich and the city council on TV last night? No doubt the council will vote yes point by point on the amendment to the general plan that Macerich wants.

It was actually rather amusing to hear all 5 council members paising and thanking profusely Macerich for "reaching out" to the citizens of Walnut Creek regarding the revised plans. No mention that they had rubber stamped and rammed through the first plan which was horrible and people hated. Very short memories in city hall and they hope that we will forget quickly also.

We should all be thanking Taubman (owners of Sun Valley) for forcing the issue by circulating the petition which at least got us a somewhat improved and smaller plan after both the council and Macerich felt the pressure from the locals.

No doubt Neiman's is coming. When and how nice is the question.

Anonymous said...

I also watched the lovefest. It's disappointing that the council lets Macerich build on that corner with what appears to be a solid wall right up to the sidewalk on Main. Souldn't we expect something more interesting from Neiman? couldn't they create some areas along Main for sitting and a nice plaza at the corner?

Around Dublin Team said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Around Dublin Team said...

Planning for parking in high-density areas is always tricky. Like Walnut Creek, Dublin has the same problem in many of its smart-growth neighborhoods. The parking crisis in Dublin Ranch Villages is, perhaps, the most notorious, given it caught the attention of Contra Costa Times. Dublin Townhall, a companion site of the Around Dublin Blog, has three articles on this politically sensitive issue.

Parking Planning in Dublin, CA
Consistent with her pro-developer views, Councilmember Kasie Hildenbrand went so far as to blaming the residents alone for the parking crisis in Dublin Ranch Villages:

Councilmember Kasie Hildenbrand Blames Dublin Residents for Their Own Parking Woes
I wonder if Macerich made any contribution to Walnut Creek's recent city election. The Around Dublin Team published detailed campaign contribution
data from Dublin's most recent city election, and we will be consulting these Google Map Mashables as important decisions come up in front of our city council:

Councilmember Kasie Hildenbrand's 2008 Campaign Contribution Map
We published our Materials and Methods in a post on Around Dublin:

Technical Bulletin: Campaign Contribution Maps 2008
Around Dublin Team