Downtown doesn’t need protection

Opposing department store because it would compete with downtown is a poor rationale

letters@thetribunenews.comJuly 31, 2013 

In a view from the hill adjacent to Laguna Lake Park, Ernie Dalidio’s property reaches from the edge of the SLO Promenade to Highway 101.

LAURA DICKINSON — ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Just like that, plans for a Macy’s and/or a Nordstrom’s Rack are kaput — at least as far as the Dalidio Ranch project goes.

For those who haven’t been following the shopping saga, here’s a recap: Last week, one partner in the revamped Dalidio project told us the developers were proposing an upscale shopping district, similar to Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara, that could include a department store and perhaps some higher-end chains.

But then developer Clint Pearce said his partner misspoke; the project’s commercial component would feature more affordable stores, so as not to compete with the downtown.

With all due respect to Mr. Pearce, we believe that would be a mistake. San Luis Obispo already has plenty of affordable chains: Costco, Old Navy, Target, T.J.Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ross, Forever 21.

As we said on Sunday, what the city lacks is a Macy’s type department store, along with many of the popular mid-to-higher-end retail chains such as J. Crew, Williams Sonoma, Kitson, Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, Tiffany’s and Crate and Barrel.

To deliberately rule out such retailers out of deference to — or fear of — opposition from downtown merchants is counterproductive. Downtown merchants already are losing out to these chains. Local residents are traveling out of town to shop, and/or they’re ordering from these retailers online.

For the city of SLO, this leakage of customers means less sales tax revenue for law enforcement, fire fighting, road improvements, homeless services and other vital needs — including the additional police patrols that downtown merchants have requested.

Another thing: Assuming that the downtown would suffer irreparable harm if an upscale shopping district were built on the Dalidio property is ridiculous.

Downtown will always be a tourist mecca by virtue of its beauty, charm and history, not to mention its unique shops and restaurants, movie theaters, art galleries, farmers market, concerts and other special events. We should also point out that downtown is no slouch when it comes to national chains — Gap, Banana Republic, Sephora, Pottery Barn, Victoria’s Secret, Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters, among others, already are located there and will continue to attract customers.

If anything, the addition of another retail hub would help the downtown by drawing more out-of-town shoppers from the Tri-Counties area who would come for the day. (Here’s a thought: Some of the additional sales tax revenue generated by new retailers could be used to operate a free shuttle service between the Dalidio Ranch and the downtown.)

Bottom line: We still believe that Dalidio Ranch would be the perfect location for a Macy’s or similar department store, as well as some of the upscale chains that aren’t already located downtown. If the Dalidio developers aren’t willing to go after such tenants because they don’t want to cross downtown merchants, then the city must find a way to accommodate them in the downtown core.

What Dalidio Ranch could look like

Here's a rendering of the proposed Dalidio Ranch development.

Planned Dalidio Ranch development by The Tribune

Tribune graphic by Joe Tarica; rendering courtesy of RRM Design

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