With Forever 21 closing, what’s the best fit for SLO Promenade building?

Forever 21 in San Luis Obispo is set to close Jan. 6 or earlier, according to an email sent to San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx.
Forever 21 in San Luis Obispo is set to close Jan. 6 or earlier, according to an email sent to San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

No matter how you feel about Forever 21 — the store that specializes in inexpensive, “fast fashion” for teens and young adults — it’s never good to see a business pull out of the community, taking jobs and tax revenue along with it.

Fortunately, unemployment in San Luis Obispo County has fallen to 4.1 percent, and we’ve spotted several “now hiring” signs around town. We hope that means that Forever 21 employees won’t be jobless for long.

We hope, too, that the behemoth building that houses Forever 21 — which was originally a Gottschalks department store — won’t stand empty for months on end.

The 120,000-square-foot building anchors the SLO Promenade shopping center. With the right tenant, it has the potential to rebuild San Luis Obispo’s reputation as a regional shopping hub, which suffered with the demise of Gottschalks.

Several readers already have weighed in on what they’d like to see there:

“Macy’s or Nordstrom, please!”

“Is it large enough for an Ikea?”

“REI is a possibility, but I question if SLO has the population to support a large specialty outdoors store.”

Good ideas, but judging by the responses posted on The Tribune’s Facebook page, the hands down favorite is Nordstrom Rack.

We agree Nordstrom Rack or an equivalent (if there is an equivalent) would be about as close to perfect as we could get. It would attract a much wider range of ages than Forever 21, and the discounted, higher-end merchandise would appeal to locals who are now traveling to shopping meccas such as Santa Barbara, Camarillo or Gilroy — or are relying on the Internet.

So can we lure a Nordstrom Rack?

The city says it doesn’t run any incentive programs to target specific businesses. Fair enough. It’s certainly not the city’s business to favor one private enterprise over another, and ultimately, it will be up to the owner of the shopping center — The Kroenke Group, based in Columbia, Mo. — to choose the next tenant.

But the city isn’t exactly a disinterested party. Given its reliance on sales tax, it’s in the city’s best interests to see that the shopping center remains successful and that one of its biggest retail spaces is filled.

We strongly urge the city to exercise its influence to help ensure the next tenant is a good fit.

As we’ve said before, if the city wants to maintain its position as a regional shopping hub, it needs businesses that recognize that nobody is 21 forever.

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