Santa Paula Times

Vacant Main Street storefronts a City Councilman’s concern

June 04, 2008
Santa Paula City Council

Business attraction and retention was much on the mind of the City Council when they discussed empty storefronts at the May 19 meeting.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesBusiness attraction and retention was much on the mind of the City Council when they discussed empty storefronts at the May 19 meeting. Councilman Ray Luna, during a discussion of the upcoming budget, asked what the city is doing to fill empty Main Street buildings.“What we’re doing on the attraction side is working with commercial real estate brokers, only three or four, who really specialize in the downtown area,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “I told them to come to me personally, bring clients, individuals to me” who, if seeking business relocation, Bobkiewicz said he would offer “personal guidance” to.Although meetings have been held with “five or six perspective tenants,” the sessions have not resulted in building occupancy. Bobkiewicz stated, “One Realtor had pulled me aside and said the city was not doing enough,” a comment that prompted his personal involvement in business attraction. “We have had some discussions and, of the five or six I met with, we took the next step to walk through the proposed project.”“What are some of the issues,” Luna asked, that have delayed tenants. “Is the rent too high?”
Bobkiewicz said that the “general economic climate” throughout the state has had an impact. “We’re had individuals come with great ideas, but they did not have the capital resources; in some cases absent property owners have a different view of what the property is worth,” regardless of what the city or their Realtor tells them.Customer base has also been an issue at times. Some potential businesses “have had great ideas, but they look at Santa Paula” and realize that the customer base “does not match their great idea.”“My concern has always been whether the cost of the rents” could be prohibitive, said Luna. “I would hope that anytime someone would want to come and start a business” the city would assist them, “especially the building on 10th Street... it’s been vacant a really long time.”The Realtor for the building located on the southwest corner of 10th and Main streets, said Bobkiewicz, has “done everything under the sun to meet the needs” of the property owner and potential tenants. Personal commitments have been offered to several property owners, especially those in the 10th Street to Mill Street corridor, where Bobkiewicz said there are several vacant storefronts that “could have some great things in them.”“I don’t know what the rent is, but that building has been empty way too long,” noted Luna, who urged that the building be filled even if some city offices are moved to the location.