City nixes plan for medical practices in Town & Country Village | New
After flirting with the idea of allowing medical businesses in Town & Country Village, Palo Alto City Council abruptly abandoned the idea on Monday night.
The idea was sparked by demand from the mall, which highlighted its growing vacancies and a persistent e-commerce threat that threatens some of its traditional retailers, especially those in the clothing and home furnishings sectors. While the council was somewhat skeptical of the idea, members agreed in March to allow the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission to further explore the idea and refine exactly the types of businesses that would fall into the newly established category of “retail health”.
The planning committee had also struggled to reach consensus on the issue, ultimately voting 4-3 in May on a definition that excludes emergency care and emergency care services and that any lease with companies medical should be signed before the end of 2023. The commission and staff also agreed that medical uses should be limited to no more than 10% of the mall’s ground floor.
On Monday, however, the majority of the board were reluctant to change retail rules, even as Town & Country executives said they still face a long-term threat from online shopping.
Dean Rubinson, director of development at Ellis Partners, owner of the mall, noted that the mall’s vacancy rate recently fell from around 0.9% in 2015 to 6.4% in 2019 to reach the level current of 21.3%. Even though the rate is expected to drop to around 18% once the center accommodates the vegan restaurant Wildseed and other restaurants to fill the space left by the departure of Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, Rubinson argued that the online trend will continue to make things difficult. so that many businesses remain open.
“While we believe that online sales will no longer have the same dominance as last year, we believe that the habits that were developed last year will continue and that the growth of e-commerce will continue well beyond. COVID-19, ”Rubinson said.
He suggested that the mall be allowed to accommodate businesses that offer health services but also have a retail component. The list of possible tenants he presented includes modern acupuncture; Carbon Health, a primary and urgent care provider; and Orange Twist, specializing in the treatment of the skin.
The board did not believe the explanation. Board member Greer Stone said he regularly visits the mall, which is across from Palo Alto High School where he is director of student activities, and often sees crowds there at all hours of the day. He highlighted the centre’s prime location on Embarcadero Road and El Camino Real and questioned the need to relax retail rules for a particular shopping area.
“Other malls are finding a way to thrive in our city,” Stone said. “I believe Town & Country can too.”
Most of his colleagues agreed and the council voted 5-2, with council members Alison Cormack and Greg Tanaka dissenting, to stop exploring the city of the new “retail health” category. Mayor Tom DuBois has hinted that the city has already spent too much time on the proposal.
“I’m not convinced it’s a good process to just pass this order for one address,” DuBois said.
Cormack and Tanaka both disagreed and supported Town & Country’s plan. While several residents spoke out against allowing medical uses in the mall and submitted letters opposing the change, Cormack said allowing them to 10% of the mall would be a “minor experiment.”
“I speak with people and they are interested in these services being available,” Cormack said.
Tanaka went further and suggested that the problem is “catastrophic” and that the city must “act quickly” to save the retail business at a time when it is in difficulty.
“There is a pretty big competition to fill these retail spaces not only in our city but in other cities,” Tanaka said. “I’m afraid if we keep waiting we’ll have a much harder time filling the squares and the fragile retail environment we already have is going to be hurt.”
Most council members agreed that while it might be a good idea for the city to adopt a definition of “retail health”, it should not be done at the request of a single owner, especially more that the COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly and California is preparing to end its trade restrictions on June 15. Council member Eric Filseth likened the process to “the tail wagging the dog”, while Deputy Mayor Pat Burt said he would be reluctant to see stores replaced by medical offices, even those with retail outlets. detail. Components.
“I think the future is that we have to look to refine that definition, but I don’t want to just open the doors and start equating doctor’s offices almost with retail,” Burt said. “I don’t think we have that here.