Sunday, September 12, 2010

NBBJ Real Estate Awards

I see it's time to send in nominations for the Business Journal's "fifth annual 2010 Top Projects Awards" (fifth... 2010...?).

There aren't a lot of Marin contenders (it's been a quiet year). A leading contender in the mixed use category will be the Tamalpais Commons project in Mill Valley (picture below). This higher-density development is the first of several planned for Miller Avenue and is still controversial with many locals who fear increased levels of traffic. I'm not sure whether the residential component is a success, but the retail is a great addition to this part of Miller, adding three new businesses: Dish restaurant, Yolo fro-yo and ToyHouse.
Another Marin mixed-use development that might receive an award is the Millworks project, which houses the new Whole Foods in downtown Novato. The City has been criticized for allowing such a large project. And in terms of design it's just OK. On balance I think it's a worthwhile project, bringing business, jobs and residents to the downtown area.

Northgate Mall probably doesn't qualify, as it opened last year. They did a great job of getting most of the space leased in the midst of the great recession, but I'm not a fan of the design: the inside of the place looks too much like a warehouse. And there are too many small design fails, such as putting the H&M entry right behind this structural column.
Meanwhile, over the street at Northgate One, the new Walgreen is my official entry for "Ugly Building Turning Its Back On The Street" category.
Buy your tickets for the gala awards ceremony now, folks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Northgate Mall - Victoria's Secret coming soon

Since the renovated Northgate Mall opened at the end of 2009, they've been steadily adding new retailers. I got my first look at the new Forever 21 store at Northgate Mall last weekend.
There's no missing the remodeled mall's identity - it's all about mid market fashion. There's the three department stores for the older generations, and for teens and young adults there's a host of specialty chain stores. In fact, I've never seen such a concentration of almost identical stores next to each other. I'm sure the kids will tell me that Tilly's is nothing like PacSun is nothing like Hot Topic, Forever 21, Buckle, H&M etc... but for me it's all a little repetitive.
Victoria's Secret, which will occupy a large unit at the center of the mall, will certainly add a little complementary variety to the mix

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Target gets a grocery store

I finally got a chance to visit the new grocery store that opened quietly earlier this year - the one inside of Target at Vintage Oaks. I expected to find an expansion of their existing packaged food section with some added fresh food and baked goods. But they have totally moved the food section to one side of the store so it more resembles a market. The expansion is part of a nationwide roll out as Target continues to battle Wal-Mart for market share.

The grocery section was larger than I supposed, with some 10,000 - 12,000 square feet dedicated to food, and set out along 10 short aisles at the far end of the store. The design was as expected, with clean, simple signs, bright displays and well-stocked shelves .
The product mix was also simple, based around packaged goods and mass-market brands. Target's own brands were also on display: Market Pantry is their discount brand, while Archer Farms is the premium alternative. The fresh food section (photo above) was quite small. As you would expect from Target, the emphasis is on price and convenience. There was a lot of processed food on display, though I didn't spot the wall of shredded cheese.

I can't see many people using this as their main grocery store. Traffic was light, with 10-12 people shopping the grocery section. Target is clearly relying on the convenience of picking up some cheap groceries while shopping for other household goods or clothing to make this a productive use of space.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Retail sales still tracking above 2009

Despite the slowdown in the economic recovery and amid warnings of a double-dip recession, 2010 retail sales in Marin have so far kept ahead of 2009 levels for the comparable month. For the year to August, the 1% sales tax distributed to Marin cities was $18.2m, up 3.3% over the same period for 2009.
Next month's figures will be interesting because the September 2009 figures were inflated by cash for clunkers spending from August 2009, as shown by the green line on the chart above, which rose to 2008 levels for that one month before sliding back in October.

Car makers are already reporting their August sales comps look terrible. So it will be no surprise if the Sept. 2010 retail sales number comes in 10%-20% below 2009.