Lowe's backs out of Deer Creek Village development
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
Lowe’s has decided not to pursue a new home improvement store in the proposed Deer Creek Village shopping center, where it was intended to anchor the new development.
The national home improvement chain decided to drop plans for the store because all the approvals needed for the project were not obtained by a deadline that Lowe’s had agreed on with developers, according to Lowe’s public relations manager Stacey Lentz.
Still, the planned Petaluma Lowe’s wasn’t the only one to take a hit. On Monday, the national chain announced that it would be closing 20 under-performing stores around the country. Starting in 2012, it also plans to scale down the number of stores it opens per year, from around 30 to 10-15.
However, only two of the 20 planned store closures are in California, and the nearby Cotati Lowe’s has been consistently busy, according to Marko Mlikotin, spokesman for the Deer Creek Village project.
The Deer Creek Village developers, Merlone Geier Partners, received written notice of Lowe’s backing out on Monday, Oct. 17, said Mlikotin.
"Unfortunately, the clock ran out," Mlikotin said of the long and often controversial process of the project being approved.
“Despite this development, our firm remains committed to building the Deer Creek Village shopping center," wrote Greg Geertsen, a managing partner at Merlone Geier, in a statement issued Tuesday.
Somewhat ironically, Merlone Geier Partners released survey results just last week that showed more than 60 percent of 300 registered voters in Petaluma supported the Lowe’s. The developers commissioned the survey.
The developers say they’ll move forward despite Lowe’s change of plans, seeking approval of the environmental impact report this fall. Mlikotin added that they’ll seek another major home improvement store to fill the void Lowe’s has left, as the project has been planned around such a store.
But, he said, the most important next step is to get the needed approvals from the city.
"It’s not hard to convince retailers that they can be successful here," he said. "What we do need to convince retailers is that there is political support."
Councilmember Mike Healy said he had been frustrated by the pace of the project for a long time.
But Councilmember Chris Alberston countered that the city has been demonstrating its support.
“We have a duty to do our due diligence while keeping the project moving forward, and I think we’ve been doing that. The current council majority is looking forward to having a home improvement store on site,” he said. Alberston heard the news about Lowe’s decision from this reporter, and responded to it by saying he was disappointed.
Councilmember Teresa Barrett reacted by saying that she thought Petaluma had dodged a bullet with Lowe’s withdrawal. “I’m not surprised by this,” she said. “It’s economically untenable to have two (Lowe’s) stores six miles away from each other.” She added that Lowe’s withdrawal was a reflection of the overall economy, not of the process in Petaluma.
For now, the project’s final environmental impact report is still expected to come before the Planning Commission in November and City Council in December. Mlikotin said that Merlone Geier Partners would like to have the approvals before bringing in a new home improvement store, but councilmembers interviewed — Barrett, Healy and Albertson — all voiced skepticism over approving a project with no stores specified.
Healy and Albertson both said this presented a great opportunity for Friedman’s, the Petaluma-grown home improvement store, to return to the city.
“This is Friedman’s big chance to have Petaluma to itself,” Healy said.
Vice President Barry Friedman had only recently heard the news late Tuesday afternoon, and said that Friedman’s had not yet been in discussion Merlone Geier. But, he added, “we want to be in Petaluma, and this definitely seems like a good opportunity.”
Friedman added that they’ve tried to open a store in Petaluma multiple times, including once with the Target-based Regency Centers development. “It’s pretty clear there’s a need,” he said.
Mlikotin, meanwhile, would only say that “the firm is looking at all possibilities.”
Deer Creek Village plans call for nearly 350,000 square feet of retail and office space, among other things, on 36.5 acres of land that is currently vacant on North McDowell Boulevard between Lynch Creek Way and Rainier Avenue.
(Contact Jamie Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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