Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Parking issue kills Trader Joes for the Castro

Clarification: I think this is good news. That part of Market Street was a bad location for a Trader Joes six years ago when it was first proposed and it still is.

Trader Joe’s abandons Castro store site
Bay Area Reporter
Monday, March 7, 2011
by Matthew S. Bajko

Three weeks after a contentious meeting it held with Castro residents, Trader Joe’s is abandoning plans to open a store in San Francisco’s gay neighborhood, the Bay Area Reporter has learned.

The national grocery chain informed city officials today that it would no longer pursue opening at the Market and Noe Center on Market Street, currently the site of a Goodwill store. The project had been met with concerns from residents that customers would clog nearby streets since there is a limited parking garage at the site.

Others had rallied behind seeing Trader Joe’s come into the neighborhood, and Planning Department staffers had been working with the retailer to resolve the parking issues.

“They were finding it challenging to make the model work here given the parking constraints. Unfortunately, in the end, they decided they couldn’t make it work,” District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter late Monday, March 7.

As of last month Trader Joe’s officials, including the store’s general counsel Doug Yokomizo (seen at right), had told Castro residents they would likely seek approval for the store in April. They attended the February 14 meeting of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association to once again present their plans and discuss the parking issues.

In a letter Planning Director John Rahaim sent to Trader Joe’s management February 22, he informed the grocery chain that it should agree to a wide range on requirements intended to ease its impact on vehicular traffic. Among the items Rahaim suggested that Trader Joe’s agree to was paying for improvements to the intersection of Market and Noe Streets costing upwards of $600,000; working with a delivery/shuttle operator to reduce car trips to the Castro store; and hiring parking control officers to stop customers from queuing up to enter the parking lot.

Apart from the traffic impacts, other problems had bedeviled Trader Joe’s plans since they were first disclosed several years ago. The grocer wanted the entire bottom space of the shopping center, including the storefront now housing a Radio Shack. The electronics retailer had resisted entreaties it move to a vacant space across the street.

The family that owns the site had reportedly agreed to pay for Radio Shack to relocate and had been working to move out several other tenants. The Jeffrey family has been seeking a long-term tenant since Tower Records closed in late 2006.

Wiener said he was “very disappointed” with the news that Trader Joe’s was walking away from the location.

He said he plans to continue working with the building owners to find a retailer for the site.

Goodwill had signed a short-term lease; it is unclear if it will want to extend its lease. But it only moved into the lower-level, leaving a second floor space empty.

“I will be working closely with the owner of the property to make sure we get that space filled,” said Wiener, who wouldn’t rule out seeing another grocery store move into the space. “I know it is disappointing for a lot of people not to have Trader Joe’s there. I am confident we will get that space filled with a good retailer.”

See also an earlier discussion of the project on Socket Site.

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