June 9, 2009

Neiman Marcus supporters now back a ballot initiative--their own

So, Walnut Creek voters may decide after all whether to bring a Neiman Marcus to town, but not because anti-Neiman Marcus forces succeeded in getting all the signatures they needed to put the issue on the ballot.

Because the people who want Neiman Marcus to come to Broadway Plaza have come up with their own ballot initiative, which the Contra Costa Times reports, was filed Friday. The new initiative, backed by the owners of Broadway Plaza, "is basically the same plan submitted and approved by the City Council in May," the Times says.

Now that this initiative is filed, it must be reviewed by the city attorney. He'll give it a name. Then another group of petitioners will hit the streets, seeking signatures of 15 percent of registered Walnut Creek voters.

Is it possible that we'll have two rival groups, hitting us up outside our local Safeway for signatures?

Things get even more confusing: The Times says it is unclear "what would happen if both a referendum and initiative were placed on the same ballot and passed."

One side, which includes Macerich, the owner of Broadway Plaza, and the local business community, thinks bringing this luxury retailer to Walnut Creek is vital to Walnut Creek's future prosperity: the potential sales tax revenue and the prestige of having Neiman Marcus as an anchor store in a prominent location, the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and South Main Street, Walnut Creek's traditional "Corners."

These Neiman Marcus supporters also talk about Walnut Creek residents being able to decide their own destiny, free from the influences of outside forces. Those "outside influences" would be Taubman, a mall developer based in Michigan that owns Sunvalley mall and is the possible retail developer of San Ramon's new City Centre.

Of course, Macerich is based in Southern California. So, in that sense, outside forces on either side of the debate are trying to have influence over Walnut Creek's destiny.

I'm still going to stay neutral on the question of whether Neiman Marcus should come to Walnut Creek. But as I read more about all the time and energy either side is putting into this issue, I'm wondering if all this time and energy is worth it, when there are so many other pressing issues in our community.

Cuts to schools, mental health, child welfare, and elderly services. Law enforcement. Nonprofits having to shut their doors because they're losing donor support.

All this fuss about a luxury department store--often derided as "Needless Markup"--that some of us probably won't shop at.

But if its arrival will help revive a downtown, hit by a souring economy and dotted with empty storefronts, then let it come.


Masterlock said...

I'm with you Soccer Mom, it's a store - not that big of a deal. I pretty much avoid downtown on weekends anyway because of the insanity so what's one more?

Anonymous said...

It's not a 7-11, it's a flagship store that will bring in a lot of shoppers and other stores to continue to make WC a prosperous shopping destination, like Tiffanys and Nordstrom helped do.

DumbAsBricks said...

The longer it takes for NM or any store to open up, the longer it takes for that tax revenue to kick in. What does it matter at this point? We will have other developments to force into kicking into the parking coffers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let them build NM. I will continue to shop at Target with my red card so a % goes to my local school( Walnut Acres).
I would like to see a civic challenge to NM once they are up and running. I expect that they should be the first donor to EVERY civic project and the donation should be in the mode of Dean Lesher( big bucks). After all, actions speak louder than words!!
In fact, NM could fund the underground parking for the new library --this would free some operating money to run the library. (Parking funded by NM plaque on a wall etc).

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:55

U sparked a thought re: 7-11. If the Newell project goes thru and we actually do lose 7-11, where are the California bridge drunks going to get their 48 oz. beers? Just a thought.......

Anonymous said...

Recent business news reports indicate that high-end retailers Neiman Marcus and Saks numbers were down again in May. One wonders if the American consumers will embrace the kind of extravagent spending
seen prior to the economic downturn. And if NM is struggling, will they be solvent enough to open a new store? It's troubling that there is nothing in writing that guarantees that.

It will be interesting to see if the ballot initiative includes any mention of NM actually being the eventual occupant of the space that Macerich so desparately wants to build.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, what an amazing addition to the drama in Walnut Creek.

One could observe that Macerich and the City Fathers/Mothers must be very concerned about the current petition being circulated getting enough signatures to reach the ballot.

After all of the hysterics from the pro NM people about spending $300,000 to hold an election so the people can have their say, one wonders how they are now going to justify spending that amount for their own purposes??????

Reading the article in the Times today, please notice that the rep from Macerich "did not rule out" using paid signature gatherers. What a novel idea! How can she say this with a straight face after months of loudly deriding the other side for doing the very same thing?

This whole issue becomes more amusing and entertaining all the time. Sad.

So much of this crap could have been avoided if the Council and Macerich had really listened to Walnut Creek citizens in the first place. They very loudly voiced their opposition to changing the
General Plan to satisfy one development but closed minds and arrogance prevailed in City Hall and now we are all paying the price.

Soccer Mom said...

Just heard that Viking Home Chef at Mt. Diablo and Locust is closing. WIth Bombay gone (but to be filled with the Vitamin Shoppe), Mark Morris closed and many of those other Olympic Place storefronts empty, that's going to be a mighty sad looking corner.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned in an earlier post,
these are two big companies,
one from out of state, and one in
south state each looking out for
its own economic interests.Neither
of them are 'local' companies.
It is the residents of Walnut Creek
that must decide what type of city
they wish to live in.This issue
should not be up to all those that
have business interests in the city.

Anonymous said...

"It is the residents of Walnut Creek
that must decide what type of city
they wish to live in.This issue
should not be up to all those that
have business interests in the city."

With Tiffanys, Nordstroms and other high end retailers there, it's already been decided. Move elsewhere if you're unhappy with it.

Anonymous said...

"With Tiffanys, Nordstroms and other high end retailers there, it's already been decided. Move elsewhere if you're unhappy with it."

It is exactly this type of playground mentality that spurred the angry reaction to the City Council's blanket approval of the flawed Neiman Marcus project last fall.

Many residents of Walnut Creek are tired of the playground bullies (developers and City Hall gurus)pushing them around and have decided to fight rather than picking up their ball and going home quietly this time.

Enough is enough and quite frankly I find residents' renewed interest in what is happening to their city rather refreshing.

Anonymous said...

I shop at Target. A splurge for me is Macy's.

But I see a lot of closed businesses in our downtown, and in this economy, we need something to boost us up. Although Macerich is based in SoCal, at least they have been property owners in Walnut Creek. (They own and operate Broadway Plaza.)

The other group (Taubman Company) doesn't own anything in our town. But they are rumored to be developing the retail component of San Ramon's brand spanking new downtown with anchor stores like Bloomingdales and Sax.

It seems pretty obvious to me what Taubman's motivations are...

Anonymous said...

Gee, June 9,2:05, I never thought
I would be told to move because
I had this radical idea of letting
the residents of WC decide what type of city they wish to live in.

Thank you for sharing.

June9 12:40

Anonymous said...

To make some of us happy we should remove the entire shopping center and most of downtown. Replace it with a couple of crappy auto repair shops, a few more gas stations, a hardware store, a feed center and a vegetable stand. This will solve the traffic and parking problems!

Stop living in the past. Maybe the town has outgrown you. Don't feel bad it happens.

Yes, it's concerning that the city may not be listening to you. But consider that at some of these citizen input sessions people are attempting to shape the city into something that it was not where it is and where it's going.

I remember walking downtown on Sunday and the streets were nearly empty in the old part of downtown. Today it's a buzz with people enjoying what it has to offer. Sure, I don't like all the shops, why should I? The city should have something for all and private business owners will decide what works for them.

If you don't like traffic and can't find parking stay away. If you don't like mexican food, find another place to eat. Men's Wearhouse or consignment shop, you decide.

Have fun and enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Oh come on now 1:13......some of us have no other choice about getting through the traffic and mess that is downtown now. We live in areas of town that require us to go through busy streets to get to our destinations.

Having moved here over 40 years ago as young marrieds, we chose this town because it offered most everything we needed, was not too far to work and the schools were good for our kids.

Some of the changes are good and some not so good but I'm for damned sure not going to sit on my butt and watch my wonderful home town go down the drain because outside developers want to create just another cookie cutter shopping center here. The only thing unique about Broadway Plaza is David M and that now is just a shadow of the super store it used to be before Macerich moved it. Almost everything else in that mall is available in many other upscale towns around the nation.

I shop very little downtown choosing instead to shop online at the very same stores that are in Broadway Plaza. No parking fees, no traffic and parking frustration, often times no sales tax and shipping charges and certainly a time and gas saving way to live. It is a win, win for me but obviously all of my needs cannot be met online so I must venture out into the mess to get to the hardware store, doctors etc. and I hate having to plan my day around what time the traffic will be the worst.

Living in the past is not the greatest sin in the world. Not trying to preserve some of the nicer amenities about Walnut Creek for future generations is!

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:14 you got to be the happiest man on earth. You have to plan your doctor's trips around traffic. What does that mean without traffic 5 minutes with traffic 8 minutes? Parking can't be your problem there is always parking at Ace Hardware or at Piedmont lumber, and I'm sure you don't expect mall parking for your doctor's visits

Anonymous said...

ANON 8:16 pm

Goodness me you have alot of anger!

Not a man, just a very busy woman trying to keep the stress out of my life.

So you will understand, please read...... If you live in the Walnut Heights area of town, getting across downtown to run errands can be a nightmare. An example; leave my home to get to Blockbuster - 2 stop signs, flashing in-street lights at Iron Horse trail, stoplight at Safeway, stoplight at Broadway, flashing in-street lights at Il Fornaio, stoplight at Main Street, stoplight at Locust Street, stoplight at California, stoplight at Bonanza then stoplight at Blockbuster = total time, somedays 10-15 minutes. Other solution go out south way; leave my home to go to Blockbuster - 3 stopsigns, stoplight at Broadway, jaywalkers from Whole Foods/Las Lomas to Macys parking lot, stoplight at entrance to Macys parking lot, stoplight at S. Main, jaywalkers from Kaiser to Trader Joes, stoplight at California, stoplight at Petco, stoplight at Olympic/Alpine, stoplight at Mt. Diablo into Blockbuster parking lot = 10-15 minutes. This is why I plan my trips around the time of day. Just stating the facts. And by the way, parking at Piedmont can also be a problem if you arrive at the times when the contractors are there. Not an easy place to enter or exit but worth the visit.

Lighten up buddy. Snide comments are not necessary, especially when you haven't live someone else's life.

Burying our heads in the sand about more buildings = more traffic is very stupid and dangerous for our future.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:06 I can see why you are so happy. On you trips from Walnut Heights to Blockbuster you can see: Moonstruck Chocolates, Bombay Company, Home Chef, Z Gallery, Johnny Rockets, A1 Bigscreen TV, Tin's Teahouse, all abandoned storefronts. That must help you shorten your trips to Blockbuster by quite a few seconds.

I on the other hand would gladly loose a minute or two to cross town for a vibrant downtown with open stores.

By the way I too live in Walnut Heights but I don't have the luxury to waste my time worrying about whether it will take me 5 or 10 minutes to go to Blockbuster.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:13 here again. I too, live in Walnut Heights. I take a trips to blockbuster, ace hardware, whole foods. It's never taken me 15 minutes to go through town to blockbuster or Ace. When I traveled for work, I would leave for business trips (yeah, I'm busy too) to the airport and check my time along the way. 5 minutes to get on HWY 24.

I find the mall area a pleasant place to walk around and most visitors I entertain find it to be a delightful place. Parking can be found if your not looking to park in front of your store. I shop online too, but don't forget the older section of town with all it's unique places that compliment the standard US stores. The older section of town depends on the foot traffic from Broadway Plaza.

It's a downtown. It requires re-development, buildings, parking, stop signs, flashing lights for pedestrians. This can be an inconvenience for some. If it is, find away around it. Nobody wants a development mess. People should provide input to make/keep things nice.

Any vibrant attractive place will have people present. People need to arrive somehow. Should I complain about waiting behind three people while I'm waiting to cross the street?

The only solution for Anon 2:14 is to close the place down as I described in my 1:13 post. I don't live your life but I travel in the exact same spots you do and my experience is much different.

I'm starting to understand when people say the city council doesn't listen. I'd pretty much tune out if someone tells me it takes 15 minutes across town.

No anger here, just discussion.

Enjoy our beautiful city everyone. Yeah it's got some blemishes, what doesn't?

Anonymous said...

There is an impression among residents that when a developer presents a project, city hall bends over backwards to accomodate. There is a condo project on Homestead Ave. that is an example. The neighbors had to fight city hall to keep 5 healthy valley oaks from being removed. Then they fought to try and reduce the size and have it set back with very little concession from the builder or city hall. The area floods during the winter and there's concern that those conditions will worsen as a result. And of course...traffic. The project was on a fast track until the neighbors jumped in and it has been a struggle for them. As it is, this approved project will overwhelm this bucolic neighborhood. Like all these developments, it feels like David versus Goliath. The city is allowing projects that are too big and ugly including Mercer, 555 Ygnacio,the upcoming Bart Village and yes...Neiman Marcus. The size and scale of this city should be a consideration for each development but instead huge projects are squeezed in impacting every aspect of our town. Bigger is not always better.

Anonymous said...

Yes City Hall is just so incompetent, because there are so many experts in this community who know so much better than any engeneer that some project will cause all the flooding or some lady who thinks her trip to Blockbuster takes 15 minutes just because it feels like it while in reality it only took 5 minutes, or some genius in city development thinks the Mercer is too big and ugly.

If City Hall was that incompetent nobody would want to move to Walnut Creek and housing prices would naturally oupace the decline in comparison to other areas?

According to Zillow the median house price over the last 5 years declined about 11% in 94596, about 24% in California and about 29% in Contra Costa County.

You guys are truly putting the Nut in Walnut Creek.

Anonymous said...

If your against development everything developed is too big and too ugly.

Neighborhood uprisings are a good thing. We need to keep the city leaders in check. But if the building plan, codes etc are followed everything else is just a suggestion. The builder can sue the city if they attempt to force them into a project with 'new rules'. If I invested x in a property based on the a set of existing city planning codes and you attempt to force me into something else... see you in court!

This gets translated into the city bending over backward. Much easier to understand and react to...

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:23 - Good point but don't forget about the 'retail development' experts who understand what type and size of stores go where. Also, the traffic experts that believe each building developed will create gridlock... or should I say more gridlock, I mean it already takes 15 minutes to cross town to Blockbuster!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:06 what a nightmare, sometimes it takes you 10 minutes to get to Blockbuster!!!!!!!

Have you called FEMA? Maybe they could place a special trailer for you in the Blockbuster parking lot so you could stay there until we have completed the new downtown bypass road from you home to Blockbuster?

I can see we are debating whether waterboarding is torture, but 10 or maybe even 15 minutes to Blockbuster no doubt that is torture.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, the "retail experts" sure got it right when they put Andronicos right in the middle of the shopping area! Didn't take an "expert" to figure out that it would go bust because people didn't wish (or have the time and $$$$) to park in multi-level garages to go grocery shopping.

There has to be a middle ground somewhere here in our wonderful town. Hearing the sense of frustration from residents because so much is happening so quickly in the downtown area is what our electeds and staff are supposed to respond to.

As to empty buildings......Z Gallery is in bankruptsy, choosing to close selected stores, including the WC store, Berkeley remains open; Johnny Rockets" demise was the product of the "retail experts" as there was and still is no foot traffic on that part of Mt. Diablo and once again most people don't wish to park in a multi-level parking garage to get fast food; Tins Teahouse was about the 10th incarnation of a restaurant in that site and all failed; the TV store on Mt. Diablo, a small chain that opened a new store selling only Big Screen TVs just as the economy tanked (can't compete with Best Buy, Frys etc.); point being that "retail experts" are not all knowing but never even stop to say OOPS when their planning ideas don't work out. Not good for WC's image to the outside shoppers who we are trying to lure into town.

Will be interesting to watch Neiman Marcus next quarterly report to see how they are doing and if they can, in fact, afford to take a chance on Walnut Creek.
All of this arguing back and forth may be moot when the numbers come in.

One can only hope that the city planners and council members will learn something valuable now that they have managed to stir up a hornet's nest amongst their constituents.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:33 You are the posterchild for the "retail expert" What is your basis to make the claim that the Andronico's closing had somthing to do with

"people didn't wish (or have the time and $$$$) to park in multi-level garages to go grocery shopping"?

Why do need $$$$ to park in a multilevel garage compared to a single level parking lot?

Remember Andronico's also closed its Danville and Emeryville stores and they had not multilevel parking garages? Maybe Andronico's tried to grow too fast and was simply over leveraged?

And the point about the empty store fronts was that many of you seem to lilke this, because empty storefront means no customers and thus no traffic so you can safe a few seconds on your trip to Blockbuster.

I on the other hand want stores filled with customers even if it means a few minutes added to cross downtown.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:33

With all your 'retail expertise' I suspect your rolling in acquired wealth from your retail development business.

Maybe you should lend your consulting expertise to private enterprise and move them into downtown WC. I'm sure you have a dozen ideas as to what will be a success. You could really assist downtown WC.

Anonymous said...

A new director of community development for WC was just named. Apparently she'll oversee a staff of 30. Makes one wonder how many people work at city hall (excluding police)? How many man hours have been spent by staff on this project?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:38
That should be public record. Please research and report back to the group.
It will take a number of people I'm guessing. Arborist, traffic department, planning, engineering, arts committee, community outreach, design review, sanitation, water department, ADA rep. etc. et.
I'm getting sick thinking about more. It's a wonder some of these things ever get complete...I'm not saying it's not important.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:40

Check here

Anonymous said...

Thanks. That group does a lot more than one project in Broadway Plaza!