Elk Grove Promenade Mall - Elk Grove's Con Job Of The Decade

If TV has taught us anything, it’s that miracles always happens to poor kids at Christmas If everything had gone according to plan, Th...

If TV has taught us anything, it’s that miracles always happens to poor kids at Christmas

If everything had gone according to plan, The Elk Grove Promenade, originally known as the Lent Ranch Mall, should have been opened by this Christmas season. Shoppers would have been scurrying around the much-touted open air mall maxing out their credit cards out and taking a break to stand by the much-hyped outdoor fireplaces sipping on hot cocoa.

Over at city hall, all the green eye shade accountants would have been counting the taxes generated while the political masters of the universe would be glad-handing all over town on the success of Elk Grove’s landmark destination.

Just like a Thomas Kincaid Christmas print.

Unfortunately, the picture emerging on Elk Grove’s south side with the half-constructed Promenade looks more like a suburban version of Dante’s Inferno. Meanwhile at city hall, all the master of the universes type who placed blind faith in the General Growth Property (GGP) guys like a bunch of rubes buying snake oil from a traveling salesman in the old American West, would just rather not talk about it.

Much like the hundred of cons foisted on the American public over the last decade, (think Enron, WMD’s, sub-prime mortgages, Ninja loans, AIG, Fannie Mae, Citibank, (the list goes on and on, but we’ll leave that for a later time) the government and people of Elk Grove got hoodwinked, as Dick Cheney would say, “big time” by GGP.

From our vantage point, it would appear that The Elk Grove Promenade is Elk Grove’s con job of the decade.

Line up folks, this potion will cure all your ailments!

Just like the rubes who believed the snake oil salesmen promise to cure all of their ailments, from its earliest incarnation as the Lent Ranch Mall, the developers over promised and way under delivered.

First, there was the location. How wise is to place a large scale mall in the city’s industrial area that just so happens houses one the North America’s largest propane storage facilities? Have we forgotten the adamant opposition to the malls placement from former Elk Grove CSD Fire Chief Mark Meaker?

Elk Grovians were then promised a high-end regional fashion mall housing the likes of Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. In the early days of city hood council member Sophia Scherman was awestruck.

What will we get?

Nobody, including GGP knows, but if we are really lucky, a Penney’s. More likely another Wal-Mart and Target. Who knows, maybe it be a Super Wal-Mart! Now how’s that for competing with Arden Mall and the Roseville Galleria! Actually we will be competing with the shopping area formerly know as Florin Mall.

And of the course the mother lode of this city-on-the-hill off a shopping center was the almighty sales tax revenue it was going to generate for the City of Elk Grove. As far as we know, the Elk Grove Promenade has not generated one extra cent of direct sales tax revenue.

In all likelihood, not only has it not added to our city’s coffers as promised, it has cost our city’s reputation tremendously and ability to attract real employers with real jobs by making Elk Grove the brunt of jokes and political cartoons. As they say in the credit card commercials, that sort of publicity for our community is “priceless.”

Let’s not forget snake oil salesmen running GGP back in Chicago. First they backed out of building an upscale mall and then sold the Elk Grove City Council the new potion, an exposed outdoor mall.

Who wants to go Christmas shopping in an outdoor mall exposed to rain or cold or take a casual shopping stroll in the heat of an August afternoon? What was going through the heads of the city council members, really?

Getting back to snake oil salesman from Chicago, they acted with an extraordinary level of hubris. They took on BILLIONS dollars of debt and of course found themselves unable to refinance their mess once the international credit crisis hit.

They were not unlike house flippers buying on speculation with the mistaken thought that real estate prices would never stop escalating. The big difference was that while flippers left dilapidated properties around neighborhoods, in Elk Grove GGP’s hubris left us with a big ugly eyesore of an unfinished mall that hasn’t contributed one cent of sales taxes to the city.

Some landmark destination.

So what now for The Elk Grove Promenade?

First of all, dispel any fantasy of it ever competing with Arden Mall or the Roseville Galleria. It is just not going to happen. Sorry all you mall rats.

Likewise, all the green eye shade people over at city hall and glad handing politicians better come to the realizations that the sales tax revenues will never add up to what was projected. Can you say no sales tax on food sales generated from a Super Wal-Mart?

With reports that GGP hopes to emerge from Chapter 11 early next decade, there is glimmer of hope and with a little luck, a more reputable financially sound competitor will buy the property and at least clean up the eyesore.

For the Einstein's over at city hall - learn from this con. Start by properly vetting future developers and their proposals. It is good to be skeptical.

City council members - at a minimum learn to how to read a balance sheet. It is amazing what information can be gleaned from that document. Maybe this measure of prevention will prevent another con being perpetrated on the Elk Grove taxpayer. Reading GGP’s balance sheet and being a little curious might have averted this disaster.

As for you would-be Promenade shoppers and wannabe Elk Grove mall rats, it is that time of the year for a Christmas miracle. Maybe something miraculously will happen and the strip center on steroids will be open by next Christmas.

To paraphrase Bart Simpson:

Ah, come on, this could be the miracle that saves The Elk Grove Christmas! If TV has taught us anything, it’s that miracles always happens to poor kids at Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to Charlie Brown, it happened to The Smurfs, and it's gonna happen to us!
Amen, Bart, Amen!

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Tom Nadeau said...

Be cautious when declaring a bust. "A Christmas Carol" -- the most reproduced story ever published -- was a complete failure for author Charles Dickens. It netted him a few shillings over 725 English pounds. Then, too, unlike the GGP people, Dickens invested some effort, talent, style and taste into his project. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/dec/22/christmas-carol-flop-dickens

Insania said...

In hindsight I guess I wasn't terribly surprised that this was designed as an open air mall, a landscraper. The building of anything over one story is anathema to Elk Grovian civic design.

Building up rather than out when open space is available clearly isn't as economical...so we were to get a cheaper low density mall like the rest of our low density city.

A mall where the distances between stores mirrors the distances between our jobs and our homes, and by doing so I can only think that this project will feel like any other large format power center, save for better food and more trees in the parking lot.

There is no sense of enclosure in this design. There is nothing that will make us want to walk there, to be there. Walking around it will feel just like walking around our uninspiring neighborhoods -- nothing to capture our interest, just one blank garage door after the last...and so it will be with this mall. One long walk along a blank brick wall to a store entrance, then another long walk past a half mile of glass and the obligatory water fountain, then another long walk to the food hall.

Valid public places aren't built anymore and this mall, privately owned, will function as the only public space this city will likely ever get. A higher density would have gone a lot farther in my opinion to foster stronger social interaction and more desirable tenants.

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