City government

Developer believes city parcels are off target

By From page A1 | June 28, 2012

When Target was approved by Davis voters in 2006, the city packaged into the development four “pads,” or smaller parcels, to be dedicated for future retail space.

Six years later, however, the four pads — one 6,000-, two 7,500- and one 25,000-square foot plot — remain unused, as no developer or real estate broker who has had their hands on the project has had any luck marketing the land.

That soon could change.

The Target pads have a new developer, Ramco Enterprises Inc., who says the reason the sites haven’t attracted occupants is because — aside from a stagnant economy and exorbitant fees — the square-foot limitations the city’s planning team originally built into the pads are hindering its prospects.

Basically, aside from the large pad “C,” the other plots are too small to accommodate any community or regional retail stores.

According to Dan Ramos, vice president of Ramco, T.J. Maxx is now showing a lot of interest in moving into the 25,000-square-foot pad “C” at the far northeast corner of the site.

“Not only is (T.J. Maxx) an economic development player, but it also will serve as an anchor for the rest of the pads on the site,” Ramos said Wednesday.

But if T.J. Maxx moves in, only the two 7,500-foot and one 6,000-foot parcels would remain, leaving the city with few options for what types of stores could inhabit the spaces.

The city’s hands are tied because when the project was devised in 2006, it included minimum square footage on certain types of stores.

For example, a 10,000-square-foot minimum (30,000 maximum) was placed on community and regional retail stores, such as appliance, department general merchandise or electronics stores.

Troy Estacio, of Buzz Oates Construction, who has partnered with Ramco on the project, said Wednesday that the restrictions would create a problem should T.J. Maxx decide to drop anchor in East Davis.

“Apparel is 8,000 square feet and above,” Estacio said. “Well, we don’t even have an 8,000-square-foot building lot left (assuming T.J. Maxx takes the 25,000 pad).”

To remedy the problem, the developer has proposed altering those restrictions to help draw new retail to the open pads. Instead of 10,000-foot minimums for community and regional retail stores, the developers suggest 2,000. And instead of an 8,000-square-foot minimum for apparel stores, they propose 3,000 square feet.

Estacio says that lower minimums will allow other retail shops that don’t need as much space to move in, like telecommunications shops that sell cell phones and tablets.

“We would like to perhaps have some space available for a Verizon store or a telecommunications store,” Estacio said. “Those types of stores now are selling things like iPads and iPhones.”

But before those site planning principles can be amended, the developers know that the proposed changes must go through all the interested business circles in town.

That process began Wednesday afternoon at a brown-bag lunch meeting of the Davis Downtown Business Association at River City Bank, where the developer proposed the changes to approximately 20 downtown retailers.

There, Ramos and Estacio, along with Community Development Administrator Katherine Hess, laid out the proposed changes.

In turn, the downtown retail shop owners who attended the meeting, spelled out their concerns.

“We did not want a regional shopping center (when Target was first proposed),” said Beth Annon-Lovering, owner of B&L Bike Shop, 610 Third St. “We wanted a community shopping center. If the spaces get too small out there it takes businesses from the downtown and that’s the last thing … as a member of the DDBA or as a business owner downtown, I want to see.

“We’re having a hard enough time to fill the spaces that go vacant downtown and to open up a bunch of small spaces out along the freeway it will decimate our downtown.”

Chuck Roe, president of Pyramid Construction, has seen similar instances of pad-sized stores popping up near big boxes where the result has been negative for the city’s downtown.

“This is kind of the thing that has really messed up some downtowns, a lot of downtowns across the country. It’s not the big box, it’s the little guys all around the big box that are the problem,” Roe said.

The DDBA eventually decided to form a committee to discuss in further detail the possibility of approving the amendments to the site design. According to Hess, the changes would have to go through the city’s Planning Commission and then the City Council, who both would have to schedule public hearings on the matter.

Other changes Ramco has proposed for the development restrictions include:

* Neighborhood retail and personal services, such as beauty salon and supply, video rental and dry cleaning up to an aggregate maximum of 25 percent instead of 10 percent of the square footage of the pad buildings combined (46,000 square feet).

* Financial institutions, professional and administrative offices, medical offices, real estate offices, banks, credit unions, physical therapy, physical fitness, animal clinics, children’s indoor play places, up to an aggregate maximum of 15 percent instead of 10 percent of the square footage of the pad buildings combined.

* Up to four quick-serve restaurants instead of two, not to exceed 8,000 square feet in aggregate instead of 4,000 square feet.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash.

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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