Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Marin Country Mart exposed

Work continues on the transformation of Larkspur Landing Shopping Center to Marin Country Mart, with the most radical action so far being the chopping down of trees along Sir Francis Drake Blvd, exposing the naked and still rather empty shopping center to the eyes of passing motorists.
The large trees that were removed are to be replaced by smaller Olive trees, two of which have already been positioned in the center of the mall, which is currently closed off while the landscaping is underway.
The center has also now got a new online presence, which is at the moment just a placeholder while we wait for some retailers to arrive. There's also a pretty brochure, which gives a few visual clues to the desired positioning of the center - think Janis Joplin, kids with balloons, Dirty Harry, some cheese and a barber's pole. If that doesn't provide clarity, try the brochure blurb:
Exceptional boutique shopping, neighborhood services & fine foods. A community gathering place with a children’s play area, grassy lawn, raised gardening beds, wishing well, picnic tables & benches, a fire pit & a famous duck pond.
Any ideas who the famous duck is? Donald? Daffy?

The only helpful suggestion I have is to take a look at Napa's Oxbow Market. I think that concept could really work here. Although I do also approve of the idea (shown below) of replacing Sir Francis Drake with a bicycle path. Very Marin.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Montecito Plaza

Montecito Plaza Shopping Center is located on Third Street in East San Rafael and is part of a wider commercial hub that also includes the grocers Whole Foods and United Markets.
The center is over 50 years old and is locally-owned by San Rafael's Seagate Properties. Total retail space is approx. 130,000 sq.ft, anchored by a popular Trader Joe's grocery store, PETCO, and Rite Aid.
The center has a simple timeless layout based on a U-shape set around the car park, with a covered walkway providing sheltered access between the stores. Traffic is good, and since Trader Joe's opened a store in Larkspur last year, it's not impossible to find a parking space.

The retail mix includes everyday convenience stores and services, with a good selection of places to stop and eat or pick up food to go. There are several independent local retailers, such as Mad Rags as well as regional chains (Performance Bikes).
Pinkys Pizza and Cafe Trio are two popular eateries located at the entrance to a courtyard that leads through to the San Rafael canal at the rear of the property. The canal isn't the prettiest piece of water in the world, but it would be nice to see some effort to open up the back of the center and face the water with some restaurants and cafes.
The eastern side of the center is quieter, and includes evening-trade restaurants (Puentez Taqueria, Runi) and lower-volume retailers. Worth looking for is Jasmine Market, a small Mediterranean grocery store.

Overall, there are few vacancies in the center, with exceptions being small units hidden at the corners. Pasta Pomodoro is the highest-profile vacant unit. It's getting harder all the time to find a video store in Marin that hasn't closed, so I was surprised to see Silver Screen Video still open.

Overall, Montecito Plaza is a busy and popular shopping center, with a great location and good tenant mix. Expect to see it remain so for the next 50 years.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer 2010 update

After a long summer of non-blogging, here's a quick back-to-school update of what's been making headlines in the Marin retail world.

Starting today with a little news story in the Marin IJ about the City of Corte Madera's commercial real estate investment portfolio. Yes, that's right, this small city of approx 9,000 people decided it was a good idea to become a landlord, paying $10m for the Park Madera shopping center at the peak of the market in 2006. Come 2010 and the rent doesn't over the debt service on the city's bond. The city originally purchased the center as a possible site for a new recreation center, however, the recent construction of a new Bank of Marin branch suggests it will remain as a retail center for the foreseeable future.

In Tiburon, the owner of Woodlands Market announced his intention to have the new store in Tiburon open by March 2011. The store will be 12,000 sq.ft, which is larger than the existing Boardwalk Market, which will close before construction starts later this year. The redevelopment will also include the addition of a pharmacy, the first one in Tiburon for several years.

A few photos snapped from around the county:

First, I liked Mi Pueblo, the Hispanic market in San Rafael's Canal neighborhood. Offers a different selection from my usual grocery stores.
Also visited the new Whole Foods at the Alto Center in Mill Valley. Yes, it's expensive, but I do like shopping there: great food and a fun shopping experience.

Over at the Village at Corte Madera there are new Teavana and Brookstone stores, while Martin & Osa and Elegant Living Furniture closed their doors for the last time.
And what are they thinking at Restoration Hardware? The latest refurbishment of their store is in the style of a 13th century European castle, complete with stockade and banqueting hall.