Friday, August 15, 2008

Light reading heading into the weekend...

On the back of the news that appeared in the Miner today, I thought I'd share a little something about another community that we've talked about before. The article appears in the San Diego Business Journal. I copied the whole thing though because they want readers to register on their site to view some articles... like this one.

Mimi’s Café Led Santee Retail Surge
By LIZ WIEDEMANN - 1/21/2008
San Diego Business Journal Staff

Seven years ago, just one restaurant offered table service in the 17-square-mile city of Santee.
“It was very difficult to find more than one restaurant where you could sit down with a business client,” said Santee City Manager Keith Till.

In 2000, Santee was experiencing a problem called sales tax “leakage,” defined as the difference between total county sales per capita and local city sales per capita.

Sales tax revenues lagging behind other cities in the county indicated that Santee might be under-served with retail stores, especially given its residential population growth.

Santee’s response to lagging retail sales was the 2003 opening of Trolley Square, the 450,000-square-foot shopping center that brought in “big box” names such as a Target store, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Bed Bath & Beyond.

The city that once lost 38 percent of its residents’ taxable business to neighboring cities in 2002 managed to close that gap to 15 percent by 2005, according to a study sponsored by the city. The city reported $8.2 million in sales tax revenues for fiscal year 2007.

It Used To Be A Pile Of Dirt

City Councilman Jack Dale, who is credited with getting construction started on state Route 52 through the city, says that the key to economic development is good balance.

“I remember when this whole Town Center was just a pile of dirt,” said Dale, former two-time mayor of Santee.

Those 706 acres are now home to the Santee Plaza/Promenade center, anchored by Costco, Wal-Mart and The Home Depot.

“When you first start developing, you’ll go to the big gun chains. They have the employers, the representation and the rent. Then you grow the office and residential as the general plan allows,” Dale said.

A key element to the Trolley Square project was landing Mimi’s Café in early 2003, a successful effort attributed to the city’s participation in the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual spring conference.

The chair of the San Diego planning committee for the ICSC and Retail Properties Division representative for Grubb & Ellis | BRE Commercial, Mike Clark has served on the ICSC’s committee for five years and represented Mimi’s Café in coming to Trolley Square.

A Stampede

“Mimi’s thrives on the traffic that neighboring retailers provide, so the existing Target in Trolley Square and the Kohl’s and Wal-Mart at Santee Town Center were all part of that initial push, driving the herd of retailers to follow,” Clark said.

According to Clark, that herd may never have come to sleepy Santee if not for the foresight of Vestar Property Management, a division of Vestar Development Co.

Clark says that Mimi’s, like many of the newly located Santee tenants, originally sought a presence at El Cajon’s Westfield Parkway mall, but the option did not exist.

“Retailers were passing over the smaller Santee as an alternative, but Vestar Property Management jumped on the opportunity to pull all of the tenants who wanted an East County presence into Santee,” Clark said.

Now home to nearly 100 national retailers, Santee will likely remain primarily a neighborhood with some commercial space, Clark says.

“Specialty stores and luxury goods will probably remain in the regional malls,” Clark said.

More Retail Opportunities Coming

Some areas along Mission Gorge Road and Cuyamaca Street are becoming riper for renovating and rebuilding, says Till, and the completion of state SR-52 in 2010 along with new interchanges will present added retail opportunities.

Till says that additional soft goods would be a good fit for openings created by renovations.
“Hotels, more restaurants and sporting goods are other growth areas that this community could support,” Till said.

Dale says that he assessed Santee’s gaps in retail based on the Christmas shopping that he had to do out of town.

“I had to go to the mall for Victoria’s Secret, shoes and electronics,” Dale said.

Staying true to the original vision for Santee is Dale’s primary concern, he says.

“People come to Santee to own a home, benefit from good schools and enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the county,” said Dale, a runner, who says he always wants to be able to run from his house along the San Diego River into town without touching asphalt.

San Diego Business Journal, Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved.
The path is already blazed. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

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