Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peets eyes Tiburon for new store, while CVS pushes forward

Peets Coffee and Tea has received planning approval for a new store in the Cove Shopping Center in Tiburon. The coffee shop will take the space previously occupied by Blockbuster. Retailers at the local shopping center have been struggling since the departure of first DeLano's market and then Blockbuster video earlier this year.

While Peets will draw a lot more traffic to the center, the news is double-edged for Sweet Things bakery, which has a robust coffee business, and Hearts and Flowers, which also sells coffee. As reported in the IJ:

Marsha Laske, who has co-owned Sweet Things for nearly 35 years, said coffee represents about 15 percent of her business, but she worries Peet's could also cut into her sales of baked goods. "I would not think it would be so good for either of us, quite frankly, when you have a very small population in a very small area where you have two businesses that are almost identical," Laske said.

Meanwhile, in downtown Tiburon, the new CVS drug store is moving forward, though not without ruffling the feathers of a few local residents, who are objecting to the store's large illuminated sign. As reported in the Ark:
More than 125 Belvedere and Tiburon residents have signed a petition demanding that CVS/pharmacy not be allowed to have a large, illuminated plastic marquee sign above the store.
The online petition drive was launched by Marcia McGovern of Belvedere, who earlier expressed her ire over the town's decision to allow CVS to remove the row of mature stone pine trees along their Beach Road and Tiburon Boulevard frontage.
"A 21-foot-long and 3-foot-high illuminated, red plastic, 'marquee' sign … is not in keeping with the small-town character and charm of Tiburon and should not be allowed," her petition language reads.
Disgruntled residents aside, the town of Tiburon can't wait to get these new stores up and open. Tiburon has by far the poorest performing retail sector in Marin County, with sales tax revenues down 38% since 2008.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Marinwood Market opens for business

There's something very satisfying about the opening of a new locally owned business. And when that business is a supermarket in these times of economic uncertainty and chain store dominance it's even more satisfying.

Marinwood Market is not a totally new business - it's actually a transplant of the old Boardwalk Market in Tiburon. But it's a new location and a new larger 15,000 sq.ft store for the owners and the transplanted staff.

It takes many years for a grocery store to establish its reputation and customer loyalty in a new location, but the Marinwood Market can count on a lot of good will from the local community, which has been without a local market for more than five years since Marinwood Plaza's Bell Market closed.

More photos of the new store and the renovation are on the store's Facebook page.

As can be seen from these photos, the new store is bright and spacious and fairly well stocked, with just a few gaps still waiting to be filled. The produce and deli sections are modest but nicely presented and appropriate for a store of this size.

When I visited the store was quiet - but it was a midweek afternoon, so no surprise.

Overall a great improvement from two years ago, when it seemed the Plaza would never recover.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Marin Gateway Shopping Center lands a buyer (really this time)

The San Francisco Business Times reports that the Gateway shopping center in Marin City has been sold to an affiliate of the Gerrity Group for $36 million. The center was sold by the Bay Area Council, and was previously reported as sold to a joint venture between Developers Diversified and BIG Shopping Centers, although this sale failed to finalize.

From the SFBT:

"Gerrity Group was formed to acquire well-located shopping centers where it can add value and create additional quality by investing in capital improvements, operations and management," (Dan Wald of Cassidy Turley) said in a statement.
A year ago, reports surfaced that a joint venture of The BIG group, an Israeli company, and Developers Diversified, a U.S. real estate investment trust, were going to buy Marin Gateway for $36 million. The property was first put up for sale in April 2010.
Wald said that BIG put out its press release about the deal while still in the due diligence phase, and that Developers Diversified chose not to move forward with the deal after the due diligence.
"That was unfortunate, because (BIG) announced the price, and that created a ceiling," Wald said
Congratulations to the new owners. They have a little work to do to lease up several remaining vacant stores.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marin retail sales hit by economic worries

Fears that the economy is sliding back into recession have had a negative impact on retail sales in Marin County. According to data released by the State Board of Equalization, just $2.6 million in sales tax distributions were made to cities in Marin in September. That total represents a fall of 6.5% over September 2010, and is also 3.9% less than the September total in the depths of the 2009 recession.

As the chart below shows, the rolling 3-month average for 2011 is tracking an almost identical path to 2008. Does this mean 2012 will turn out to be another 2009? Let's hope not.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Woodlands open at the Boardwalk, as the Boardwalk moves north to become the Marinwood

Keeping track of all the grocery stores in Marin is quite the challenge. In Tiburon, the Boardwalk Market, a 25-year veteran of the Boardwalk shopping center, closed its doors at the end of April this year. Less than a month later, with a few cosmetic changes to the building, the property re-opened as Woodlands Market.
Meanwhile the old Boardwalk Market has migrated northwards to Marinwood, where renovation of its new home at Marinwood Plaza is taking place, with a September opening planned. The new store will be twice as large as the old Tiburon store, and will be renamed Marinwood Market. Not to be confused with the Marinwood Farmers Market, which operates every Saturday at the Plaza.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Waiting for a tenant at the Cove Shopping Center in Tiburon

With both DeLano's and Blockbuster now gone, the Cove Shopping Center in Tiburon is looking somewhat deserted these days. Meanwhile, the small stores at the center are holding on, waiting for things to improve.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before one the region's expanding markets, such as Sunflower Farmers Market, or Fresh 'n Easy,  leases the grocery store.

Bliss Home Design at Strawberry Village

First look at Bliss Home Design, which opened recently in the old Smith & Hawken space at Strawberry Village. Clearly a great place to stock up on statues, chandeliers, over-sized everything, and horses' heads.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Slow recovery for retail sales in Marin

As the national economy teeters between recovery and falling back into recession, retail sales in Marin continue to show a slow and steady improvement. The 1% retail sales tax distributed to cities in Marin averaged $2.38 million over the three months to June, an increase of 7.6% over the same period in 2010, and 16.5% up on the same period in 2009. The question now is how long will it take retail sales to catch up with the level seen in 2008?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

San Rafael Target gets the green light from Community Impact Study

The Community Impact Study for the proposed Target store in San Rafael was released today, and essentially clears the way for the City to approve the project, finding that the impact on existing retailers will be minimal.

  • The study estimated that the highest impact would be on San Rafael retailers in the food and drug categories, with a decline in sales of just 2.9%.
  • In addition, the Target store is estimated to create 164 net new jobs and provide a net annual tax increase to San Rafael of $646,000.
  • The consultant's review of case study cities found that there were no store closures directly related to the opening of a Target store, and that generally downtown retailers adapted to the increased competition.

It's not hard to see that the report was written in order to support the proposed store. The primary reason for the absence of impact in the consultant's analysis is given in the Executive Summary:
"An analysis of retail sales compared to resident demand shows significant under supply, or retail leakage, in General Merchandise retail stores, both within San Rafael and in southern Marin County"
It appears that the consultants reached this conclusion by comparing the pattern of retail sales in central/southern Marin, where General Merchandise stores (i.e. Big Box stores) account for approx. 10% of retail sales,  to the average for California, where Big Box stores get around 18% of sales. When you look at it like this, it is then logical that there is "unmet demand" for these types of stores, and hence that the proposed Target would be satisfying this unmet demand rather than transferring sales from existing stores in the area.

I'll let you decide on whether that makes sense.  Meanwhile I'll read the rest of the report.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

San Rafael Target debate heats up pending release of Community Impact Report

The much-publicized and much-anticipated Community Impact Report for the proposed Target store in San Rafael is due to be released Wednesday April 6.

In preparation, both sides are firing up their engines and preparing to do battle. Opponents gathered outside San Rafael City Hall yesterday to protest the store's low wages and use of nonunion labor. And Target stated its case with a piece in the Marin IJ that emphasized job creation, sustainability and consumer choice.

The "No" camp seems to be winning the social media war: the "Heck No" opponents have 254 Facebook likes, versus the "San Rafael say Yes to Target's" 156. The petition against the proposed store has 699 signatures.

So who is going to pleased and who disappointed by the report's findings? With such divergent views it will be impossible to please everyone. My guess is that the fiscal benefits will be found to be lower than Target's estimate, and the commercial and traffic impacts of some concern, with a recommendation for a reduced footprint - say 90,000 sq.ft, and no grocery section.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is the Commons at Mount Burdell on the rocks?

The North Bay Business Journal recently published an outlook for the Marin office market, in which it was noted that the Fireman's Fund HQ in Novato was on the market. If you recall, this is the site of Marin's largest development project - the Commons at Mount Burdell, which is the proposed redevelopment and expansion of the site as a mixed-use community.

The project was announced in 2008 by San Diego based American Assets, who shelled-out $312 million to acquire the 65-acre site in 2007 in a joint venture (JV) with the GE Pension Trust. According to the proponents:
The completed project would be named the Commons at Mount Burdell and would upgrade the 710,000 square feet of existing facilities adding nearly 800,000 square feet of uses including residential, a first-class hotel, retail, health club, daycare, restaurant, meeting venues and a variety of other community amenities. In addition to implementing Platinum LEED standards, the projects' water, waste and energy systems are being designed to achieve 100% carbon neutrality; one of the first such efforts for a mixed-use commercial project in the United States  
Utilizing the latest approach to master plan development, The Commons at Mount Burdell would actually expand the current amount of open and green space on site by nearly 15% through the removal of nearly 15 acres of surface asphalt parking and the construction of parking structures. 
Given the economic problems of the last few years, it is not surprising that this project has not yet moved forward, but I assumed it had just been placed on the back burner for a while.

However, looking through some SEC filings, it appears that events have conspired to make the future of the project more uncertain. American Assets Inc. decided in 2010 to become a publicly listed real estate investment trust (REIT). In short, this involved an IPO and the transfer of their properties into a new entity - American Assets Trust.  However, the terms of the lease allow Fireman's Fund the first right of purchase on any transfer or sale of the property. In anticipation of the REIT formation, the property was offered to Fireman's Fund in 2010. The offer was not accepted, but Fireman's Fund also didn't waive their right of first offer on any future transfer. In addition, GE Pension Fund, which is the majority (75%) shareholder in the JV, did not consent to allow its interest to be included in the REIT formation. These problems meant that American Assets could not transfer the property into the REIT, and it also caused them to recognize a $38.5 million impairment on the property's value in 2010.

So it looks like the original entity - American Assets Inc. - remains as the owner of the 25% interest in the JV, and will continue to manage the property. But given the owners' new focus on the REIT, it seems reasonable to assume that they would look to offload the site at the earliest opportunity.

It will be interesting to see whether Fireman's Fund decide to take the opportunity to purchase their corporate HQ, and if not, whether a new owner can be found who will continue to pursue the Commons development as proposed, or is it on the rocks? One complicating factor is the uncertainty over the Novato North SMART transit station, which would serve the site, but which was identified recently as one of the potential stations to be cut, as part of SMART's budget shortfall.

*Update: The NBBJ has copied also picked up the story.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Borders adds San Rafael store to the closure list

News today that Borders Books has added another 28 stores to the list of bankruptcy closures, including the store on Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael.

The reprieve for the San Rafael outlet lasted just a month, and the store is now scheduled to close by late May.

In the short term the Borders closure will take some pressure off other book stores in the county, but the switch to digital media appears to be relentless - ebooks now outsell hardbacks. So is it only a matter of time before the bricks-and-mortar bookseller ends up at the same place in history as the video store and the music store?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cool new retailers entering Marin in 2011

There have been quite a few new store openings (including some very cool regional retailers), and some closings over the last couple of months. Here's a partial list of what's new and what's on the way:

  • First, at Marin Country Mart, James Perse and Poppy Store are now open, but Tam Cellars is closing. San Francisco retailer Unionmade  ($225 vintage Levis) has also signed up for a store
  • At Strawberry Village there is a new chocolate store, Chocolatier Blue. Also at Strawberry, the ex-Smith and Hawken store has been leased to Bliss Home Design ("sophisticated, dramatic settings for the bedroom")
  • Up at Vintage Oaks, DSW Shoe Warehouse has taken over the space previously occupied by Benjamin Franklin Crafts. Other new stores at Vintage Oaks include Subway, Justice and Southern Pacific Smokehouse.
  • In Corte Madera, new stores at The Village include Free People, Ann Taylor Loft (relocating from the Town Center) and Restoration Hardware Baby & Child. Coming soon to the Village are Tommy Bahama, J-Crew's Madewell and North Face.
  • Lastly, and possibly a victim of the gourmet fro-yo craze, Baskin Robins in downtown Larkspur has closed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders San Rafael store escapes the chop (for now)

As Borders books seeks bankruptcy protection, the good news for Marin fans of the store is that the San Rafael location is not on the list of 200 initial store closures. Whether the reprieve is temporary or permanent will depend on the success of the company's restructuring.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, the retailer is making big cuts. The San Francisco stores on Post Street and at the Westfield Center will close, as will Santana Row, Alameda Towne Center and others in San Jose and San Mateo.

*Update: the good bad news is....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Downtown Tiburon's problems? It's the economy, stupid.

A front page article in the IJ today reports from last night's City of Tiburon meeting to discuss the poor state of Tiburon's downtown. As we noted last year, Tiburon's sales tax revenues have declined by over 30% since 2008, by far the worst performance in Marin County. With businesses closing and others struggling to survive, the City has been looking for answers and has reached the view that the downtown is tired and needs some revitalization. A design consultant noted "challenges to the physical framework" and recommended several measures including improvements to walkways, landscaping and signs, and more aggressive marketing.

It's good to see everyone getting motivated to do something about it, but you can't just change the physical layout of downtown. Tiburon has constraints, particularly the lack of free parking, that it shares with many other downtowns. While it's good policy for the City to make whatever improvements are necessary to keep the downtown area attractive, don't expect such measures to have a dramatic impact.

Tiburon's problem is actually quite simple (and temporary): it's the recession. Tiburon may be the wealthiest city in Marin, but it's also been hit the hardest by the economic downturn. Look at the personal income tax data, from the CA Franchise Tax Board:
  • Total Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for zip code 94920 (Belvedere/Tiburon) in 2008 was $2.82 Billion. In 2010 it was $1.51 Billion, a decline of -47%. 
  • Over the same period, AGI for Novato fell by -11%, Corte Madera by -3% and Mill Valley by -31%.
I confidently predict a strong recovery for Tiburon over the next year or two. The City may take the credit for implementing their decisive action plan, but I suspect it will have more to do with the improved balance sheets of the citizens of 94920.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Boardwalk Market likes Marinwood Plaza

If you believe what you read on Facebook, things are looking up for the residents of Marinwood. The owners of  Tiburon's Boardwalk Market, which is being replaced by Woodlands Market in the next few months, have announced that they will be relocating their business to Marinwood.

The grocery store at Marinwood Plaza has been vacant since Bell Markets vacated several years ago. Last year, new life was injected into the Plaza in the shape of a weekly farmers market, which has enjoyed huge support from the local population. If the Boardwalk move is executed it will be a great outcome for the property and the community.

*Update: some additional details from the Marin IJ coverage: Boardwalk's owners will be doubling the size of their operations, from the current 7,000 sq.ft in Tiburon to 15,000 sq.ft in Marinwood. Also, they attempted to do a deal to get the ex-Delano's space at The Cove in Tiburon, but could not agree terms with the landlord.