Re: “Not a Pretty Picture” (GT, Letters, 11/17): Welcome to the area.
Santa Cruz downtown is down, but far from out. And unless we address the real challenges, it will continue to be a hard pass for retailers who would anchor the mall and be a draw for folks out of the area.
Yes, Santa Cruz downtown is looking pretty sad lately. That pandemic thing has definitely had an impact. Retailers who were already frustrated by high rents, the constant homeless problems and rampant shoplifting with no law enforcement were quick to punch out. But aren’t those the real problems?
It sounds like you agree with the idea of closing downtown to traffic. If that’s true, I share that sentiment and would point to the Stanford Shopping Center, which is a large outdoor mall. It seems to be thriving despite the fact that one can’t drive up and park in front of every store. Are we so lazy that we can’t walk a little? I don’t think so. Repurposing real estate currently used for cars would allow more kiosk businesses, garden spaces, outdoor seating and much more. That gets my vote every time.
You reference the Capitola Mall as one of the destinations of Santa Cruz businesses. I think one visit will change your perspective on that. Ironically, the current owner wants to demolish most of it and turn it into a mixed-use space (residential/retail), much like Santa Cruz downtown. A move I also think we should all support.
However, the west end of 41st Avenue has grown into a really great neighborhood. I would also point to Swift Street and Aptos near Nisene Marks as areas that have blossomed over the past few years. Their lower rents and proximity to outdoor activities like biking and beaches have benefitted from the pandemic as much as downtown has suffered from it.
There is great stuff happening to downtown. The Abbott Square project created a fantastic gathering place with food and music. And with the completion of the Nanda on Pacific (the last empty lot from the earthquake), Santa Cruz gets 79 more very nice residences and almost 6,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The massive redevelopment project at Pacific and Laurel streets will also uplift downtown with 205 apartments and almost 11,000 sq. ft. of retail space. There are more projects in the pipeline, and I would encourage everyone to check out the planning department page at cityofsantacruz.com. This level of investment in our city is a sign of vibrant life and opportunity, not a dying downtown.
Finally, I walked through the rubble on Pacific Ave in 1989. Most of it was gone, and it took a very long time to come back. But it did, and it will again. The Pacific Garden Mall is a destination regardless of how many retail spaces temporarily sit idle. Come on down and enjoy a slice of pizza, or a coffee, or a poke bowl, or sushi or whatever makes you happy. And don’t miss Halloween and New Year’s Eve, when people gather and have fun whether there is an organized event or not … because, well, of course that’s where you go.
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