By Dan Gougherty |
Some of the ongoing debates in Elk Grove include how can the city attract more jobs, build stronger neighborhoods and support small business owners. In fact our Mayor ran on this sort of quasi platform last year.
For the cadre of people who follow these matters and the policy makers who make decisions that will affect the lives of all Elk Grove residents, this is not, hopefully, an academic exercise either. For most residents their personal safety and wealth are directly related to the vitality of the neighborhoods where they live and own homes.
As an Elk Grove resident who is entering his 20th year of living in the same neighborhood, like most residents and homeowners I keep an eye on my immediate neighborhood. One area that is part of my neighborhood is the strip center on the corner of Bond Road and Elk Grove-Florin Road known as Bond Plaza.
If memory serves me, this project was approved in the mid 1990's and was completed just before our 2000 incorporation. Not surprisingly in that time several businesses at this strip center have come and gone.
|"Me-Time Spa" is one of the new tenants at Bond Plaza.|
There was a Dollar Tree type variety store, a place called Cover to Cover, a cell phone store, a branch of Galt's Dee's Meats, a real estate office, a sports themed men's barber shop and a karate school. More recent businesses that have opened and closed there included a women's fitness business, a tanning salon, a Merle Norman cosmetics store, a Papa John's Pizza franchise store and a few more that escape memory.
More recently new businesses to the strip center include a tenant for the buffet restaurant that closed a few years ago, a reflexology business, a small Indian grocery store and a place called "Me-Time Spa" which advertises massages. The strip center does have a few long term tenants including a dentist, a veterinary office and a nail salon.
A casual calculation shows the strip center probably has around 50,000 sq. ft of space and it appears that roughly one-third is currently vacant. While it could be argued this was not a good place to put a strip center - in front of the Union Pacific Railroad track - and the property seems to be snake bitten - the original developer was the criminally indicted bankrupt real estate and fast food impresario Abe Alizadeh - the fact remains, it now belongs to Elk Grove.
Someone else may have broke it, but metaphorically speaking - Elk Grove and the neighborhood now own it.
Obviously small retail businesses in even prosperous times are dicey propositions. The small business owner who opens shop usually pour their life savings and their heart into the business and face long odds of success.
Now that the country and our region are pulling out of this long recession, we hope the Elk Grove City Council takes a few things into consideration as they make long term planning decisions that will strengthen existing neighborhoods and support small businesses.
For all their talk about supporting small businesses, when the city has strip centers all over town just like Bond Plaza with high vacancy rates, how, you may ask, can the city council help the Mom and Pops? One simple step is to make sure all the excess retail space is absorbed before we even consider building more retail space.
This is obviously not the first time the city council has heard this, but it is worth repeating time and time again.
It is simply a matter of supply and demand. If more retail space enters the market it will not only hurt many small businesses who are already struggling in under-utilized strip centers, it will lead to more business failures, which results in more retail vacancies and ultimately weakened neighborhoods.
How can we build the stronger neighborhoods that Mayor Davis waxes about when neighborhood strip centers sit half empty? Is this how you build strong neighborhoods by building more strip centers that cannibalize other centers?
One final note about Bond Plaza. There are two original businesses that have been at the strip center, if memory serves me, since it opened that are seemingly doing well - Subway and Jack in the Box.
Could it be the city council is looking at the success of these two fast food outlets in a pool of retail failures as a model of economic development for the rest of Elk Grove in general and the proposed fast food development on Sheldon Road and East Stockton Blvd. specifically?
Lets hope not.