I've been giving some thought to the Village Marketplace and have to say that I'm really looking forward to the old Lucky's site being used for something besides a parking lot. Our downtown is a point of pride, I think, for all San Leandrans, a place where everyone can come and mingle, do a little shopping, and get a bite to eat.
I can certainly understand people being uneasy with the origins of the Village Marketplace. I believe that when city government ingratiates itself in redevelopment in the way that ours has, there are going to be more than a few hard questions to answer, and not everyone is going to like what they hear. While I'm not 100% sure about the legalities of what the city did up to this point to make the project a reality, I am of the mind that people's qualms over the likes of Peet's and Chapotle being the death of small businesses in the area, both current and future, is unrealistic.
Think about it, how many years now have McDonalds and Subway existed in tandem with the glut of privately owned restaurants in the plaza? The introduction of Starbucks in the area (whose presence has been diminished to a stall in Safeway) hasn't prevented shops like Cafe Sorriso from finding their crowd. Round Table isn't melting the local economy along with the cheese on its pizzas. People gravitate to what they like, and what our downtown has demonstrated for years now is that both small and big businesses can live together.
Walk through Washington Square Plaza or the Pelton Center any day of the week and you will see packed parking lots and shops full of people. The few empty storefronts are minimal compared to what is here and doing well. What I do see, however, is that there isn't a tremendous amount of growth in the area. We have a new sushi restaurant and yogurt shop, thankfully, but not much else. The beautification of downtown brought about when they built the BART walking path was a boon, for sure, but more can be done. Essentially, downtown is the best it can be as it exists right now. So why fight to prevent it from getting even better?
Let's face it, there is an entire segment of San Leandrans who are not frequenting our downtown because it doesn't offer enough of the things they want. People enjoy places like Peet's and Chapotle. Is that a crime? I don't think so. I also don't think that the people loving the delicious food at Los Pericos are going to all jump ship when Chipotle shows up. It stands to reason that if we can pack our downtown pretty well right now, imagine how full it will be if we throw in a little more variety to the place. The city is continuing to upgrade downtown, and the Marketplace will only add to that.
Sure, indie shops can add variety, too, but I think it's ridiculous to demonize a chain restaurant or store without warrant. I think we have to be fair to everyone in the city, and until we find that Peet's has a sweat shop hidden away somewhere, I'm not going to fight to keep a decent coffee shop from opening that someone here in SL might like very much.
For good or bad, the Village Marketplace is coming, and I'm looking forward to the good it can do for our downtown. I can appreciate what the naysayers are trying to do by fighting it, but ultimately I think it's going to be a great thing for everyone.