I enjoyed reading Charles Crumpley’s One More Thing column in the July 9 issue (“Why Not Flip Retail to Residential?”) about trying to help solve the housing shortage in the area, which he believed could be potentially mitigated by using vacant and decaying retail centers. He cited tenant turnover in one of the dominant centers in Thousand Oaks, Janss Marketplace.
As the owner of the Marketplace, we have been fortunate since while the number of retail tenants (and the number of stores they open) is shrinking, centers that have a long association with the community such as Janss and The Oaks Mall continue to be places where customers want to go, and are still a priority for new merchants. With online shopping a very attractive option, most people haven’t totally eliminated going to shopping centers; they just go less frequently and only go to those centers where they feel an attachment, feel welcomed and know they will be treated fairly. Coming off the July 4 holiday, when we had over 4,500 people on the roof of the parking structure watching fireworks and almost 20,000 people in the center that day, driving really great sales results, centers need to be the center of the community to succeed.
Losing Sears is sad, as it is anytime a retailer and the dreams that come from owning a store don’t work out. But good retail and the services that complement it continue to grow and thrive. If you look at the new Regal, we have the Dojo Boom, Gold’s Gym, Nordstrom’s Rack, DSW and others, you will see retailers that are fresh or reinvent themselves still will succeed. Humans are “hunter-gatherers” and shopping centers can help fulfill that human need.
The point about the need to be creative with new housing is 100 percent right on. We need more housing, and we need it to be more affordable. California has made it much too hard to build anything, let alone housing, and the cost to build in this state is unjustifiably high. Not just materials and labor, but the taxes and inefficiency of government have made our goals of better, more plentiful and more affordable housing inconsistent with public policy. We operate in several states, and California has no redevelopment mechanism like every other state, to help subsidize development or transformation of old assets into new ones. This is not sustainable and will become a burden on the state if not remedied.