Clint Pearce has successfully developed two shopping centers and redeveloped Madonna Inn. He and a partner are risking $20 million now in an investment that will likely top $100 million when completed. Those without a dime at stake are telling him what stores to have as tenants. They want what Santa Barbara has, what Santa Maria has.
Some unpleasant realities: The Santa Barbara/Goleta population is 160,000. Santa Maria’s (which got a Macy’s in a brand-name switch) population is 101,000. Department stores demand/require a close-in “critical mass” population within 10 miles. San Luis Obispo (population 43,000) may reach that in 25 years, given the city and county population growth cap.
Department stores, already a diminishing element in merchandising, will be few indeed in 2038.
Mr. Pearce has his planning firmly based in housing priced to teachers, police officers, mid-management employees. They’ll need a good food market, drug store and service station. If they need Macy’s, it’s 30 miles down the road, or as near as their computer.