Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DeLano's closing in Tiburon and Mill Valley

The Delano's grocery chain, which has struggled to maintain market share in the face of new competition and declining consumer spending, has folded. The two Southern Marin stores, at Tamalpais Junction, Mill Valley and The Cove, Tiburon, are expected to close in December. As reported today in the IJ, it looks like the Fairfax store will remain open but will drop the DeLano's name. The chain's three San Francisco stores are also closing.

DeLano's presence in Marin began in 2006, when they took over five Bell Markets. Poor performance led to the closure of the DeLano's market in downtown Tiburon in February 2009, and the store in Novato closed the following August.

The two Southern Marin stores have likely seen a sales decline following the opening of Whole Foods at the Alto Center in Mill Valley.  The Fairfax store benefits from little local competition, although that would change if a market is found by the new owners of the Fair-Anselm Plaza.

So what now for the closed stores? According to Fresh & Easy Buzz, There are a few small-format grocers currently looking to expand in Northern California, including Fresh & Easy, Henry's Farmers Market and Sprouts Farmers Market. Any of these would be good new additions to Marin County. Local grocer Mollie Stones may also be interested, although the Southern Marin sites may be considered too close to Mollie's existing stores in Sausalito and the Bon Air Center.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New stores for Marin Country Mart

News of several new stores for the renovated Marin Country Mart, all of which are new to Marin County and most of which are local Bay Area businesses. Designer Erica Tanov has opened a store at the former Larkspur Landing center, while other stores expected to open soon include James Perse, stationery store Twig & Fig, and Ferry Building cake seller Miette.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Making stores sustainable with LEED for Retail

The US Green Building Council officially launched LEED for Retail and the LEED Volume program at Greenbuild last week. LEED for Retail is the result of several years of work and preparation, including a pilot version, three drafts and the input of several major retailers. The LEED Volume program is also largely aimed at retailers; it provides a tool for achieving LEED certification for a prototype building, which allows developers and retail chains to roll out multiple stores without having to go through the effort and expense of certifying each building separately.

Designing a LEED system for retail is challenging simply because of the inherent purpose of retail buildings. The original LEED programs were designed for office buildings and civic uses, which are essentially spaces for people to work in, and in most cases that implies low-impact activities, such as sitting at a computer or in a meeting room.

Retail is different because the physical space is a tool that the retailer uses to sell its products or services. Retail buildings are designed to maximize accessibility, display the product attractively and provide the customer with a rewarding shopping experience. The number one design concern of the retailer will always be to make their store as attractive as possible to customers, and traditionally that has often meant a brightly-lit store (inside and out) and plenty of heat and air conditioning to make the interior as comfortable as possible. That's not the best recipe for an energy efficient building.

For retail mall owners, the comfort and accessibility of the common areas and parking is equally important. The developer and owner have less ability to influence the behavior of customers, and are shy of imposing any rules or restrictions that could turn customers away. In Marin County, the redeveloped Northgate Mall is aiming to achieve LEED Gold certification. One of the LEED strategies was to provide preferential parking for low emission vehicles. This involved designating 154 spaces that were closest to the mall entries “for low-emitting vehicles”. Shopper confusion and anger was immediate, and the project owner responded by blacking out the signage soon afterwards.

Looking at the individual credit requirements, below are some of the key areas that are different in LEED for Retail.
  • Kitchen equipment. The commercial kitchens that prepare food in cafes, restaurants and grocery stores have a major impact on the sustainability of the building. The operations of these types of retail business are more akin to manufacturing facilities than the passive, low use office, school, residential and civic buildings that LEED grew up on. Meal preparation uses energy and raw materials, and creates waste and emissions. The LEED for Retail guide dedicates a full section to the issue of kitchen equipment, with a schedule of equipment types, efficiency ratings, water use and the ratings required to achieve credits. 
  • Refrigeration units. Similar to the above, the nature of the freezers and large scale coolers used in grocery stores has required the inclusion of specific prescriptive standards within LEED for Retail. 
  • Light pollution. When it comes to outside signage, retailers have received a partial pass from the USGBC: external signage that is internally illuminated is exempt from the light pollution credit. 
  • Special provisions for multi tenant projects. In cases where the project is part of a master planned development, such as a retail strip or shopping center where several stores share common facilities, the new guide recognizes that certain requirements will need to be subject to a master plan for the whole development. Alternative transportation, parking, irrigation and landscaping are among the credit areas that require an overall plan for the whole project. 
  • Daylight and Views. It is not clear how these credits will be interpreted. Retail stores are designed with big widows that should in theory provide access to daylight and views for staff. But those credit points will be of no practical value if the light and views are then blocked by window displays, merchandise and signage. Next time you are shopping in the middle of the day, see if you can find a store that uses natural light instead of artificial. 
The new programs are a welcome addition to LEED. There will certainly be challenges in implementation, but overall, the programs should help to encourage more sustainable practices in the development of retail real estate.

Urban Outfitters - Opening Tuesday 11/23

The store is fitted out, the shelves are stocked, the staff trained and the mannequins are clothed. It'll be a pre-Thanksgiving opening for Urban Outfitters at the Town Center Corte Madera tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New stores spotted in Larkspur

Two new stores have recently popped up on Redwood Highway in Larkspur/Greenbrae. First, the space at Cost Plus Plaza that was vacated by Party America has been filled by Mattress Discounters. Trader Joe's. also took a portion of the space that was adjacent to their store and expanded into it. The remainder was snapped up by the mattress store.

Further north, on the corner of Rich Street, the unit previously occupied by Golf Mart has been taken over by a toy store, going by the name of Toy World. Not sure if the business is connected to Solaria's Toy World in the nearby Bon Air Center, or whether the name is just a coincidence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New store news: Target, Urban Outfitters and Woodlands Market

In Corte Madera, the new Urban Outfitters store at the Town Center is taking shape. The shell is finished, staff are being recruited, and the store is being fitted out. The photo below shows how the covered walkway has been enveloped within the store footprint.

Over in San Rafael, the debate over the proposed new Target continues to hit the headlines. Last week the San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution in opposition to the development. Then, after a marathon 7-hour meeting, the San Rafael Planning Commission approved the project:
"Our working families need the convenience of economically priced items in one place that doesn't require a trip on the freeway," Chairwoman Maribeth Bushey-Lang said. While "there are a lot of reasons why this is not the ideal location by any stretch of the imagination," job creation, sales tax revenue and convenient shopping outweigh those concerns, she said.

Also last week the Marin IJ reported that downtown Tiburon will be without a grocery store for up to four months after the Boardwalk Market closes at the end of this year. The owners of the Woodlands Market, who are taking over and expanding the space, had been in discussions with the Boardwalk to buy their business and keep the store open through the transition. However, these talks have broken down, and it looks like the store will close while the Woodlands space is built out, with an opening date sometime in April 2011. This is further bad news for Tiburon, which has the worst performing retail sector in Marin. However, this surely is a great opportunity for a quick-moving operator to set up a grocery store in one of the vacant downtown spaces.