Mountain View Voice

News - November 11, 2011

Study finds downtown is booming

by Daniel DeBolt

Mountain View has an enviable success story on Castro Street, where office spaces are full and retail sales are up.

That's according to a study of the downtown's economic state. The report concludes that downtown growth has caused a 56 percent increase in retail sales over the last 10 years, while the downtown has added almost 1,000 employees.

Meanwhile, housing construction increased downtown housing stock by 13 percent, and 87 percent more people are using the downtown train station, now the second busiest on the Peninsula after San Francisco's.

"We've done a good job is what it says," said Mayor Jac Siegel of the study "We're very thrilled about it."

An example of the success is 444 Castro Street, the high-rise Mountain Bay Plaza, where office space is 99 percent full, Siegel said. "We've never had anything that high. Everybody is looking for space downtown."

Overall, downtown office vacancy is less than 4 percent, the study reports.

Siegel said it was key to find "balance" and not mess it up, which is why the city also studying downtown parking needs. According the results of a new downtown parking study, the downtown will see a "deficit" of between 180 and 600 parking spaces "in the next several years."

Right now, downtown parking is free, but council member John Inks says that at some point downtown-goers may have to pay for the cost of parking, something some businesses oppose. Building a new parking structure, with retail on the ground floor, could cost between $4.7 million and $11.3 million.

The economic study examines several areas that could be redeveloped, including the St. Joseph's Church parking lot and the block where Dunn's Automotive is located at Bryant and Dana streets. City staff is encouraging those property owners to allow redevelopment to help continue downtown's growth, Inks said. A city effort to buy a key downtown property on the list, the former Wienerschnitzel building at 383 Castro Street, fell through earlier this year.

The City Council is also examining the results of a downtown grocery store feasibility study, which concludes that the downtown may be able to support a grocery store and deli of up to 10,000 square feet in size. The city had been looking at the possibility of subsidizing a grocery store on a city lot at California and Bryant Streets to meet the demands vocalized by the neighborhood. But that appears unlikely now that the 10,000-square-foot Mountain View Market on Castro Street has new owners who aim to transform the once-popular Asian market into a grocery store and deli, Siegel said.

"I'm sure we couldn't support two, 10,000-square-foot stores downtown," Siegel said. "We just couldn't do it."

The downtown studies were set to be discussed by the council shortly after the Voice's early press deadline on Tuesday, Nov. 7, due to the Veteran's Day holiday on Friday.

The studies were commissioned by the City Council as one of the last major efforts of the downtown's 1969 Revitalization Authority, which will sunset in two years after four decades. The district used downtown property taxes to take the downtown from what was once a relatively dead place to a vital city center. The council will have about $3 million left to spend on downtown improvements before then.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Downtown neighbor, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Sure, why not have a city-run grocery store downtown. In an ideal world the city would run everything - groceries, parking, and maybe a good restaurant - that will need taxpayer support soon too because there won't be enough parking for people to be able to get close. This of course goes well in hand with the 20 million of taxpayer dollars already committed by the city to replace perfectly useful downtown parking with government-run housing projects. Delicious. Feed the out-of-town developers. From the 99% to the 1% in the name of do gooding!


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