Study makes case for redevelopment at the ‘Y’ |

Study makes case for redevelopment at the ‘Y’

Susan Wood

Justifying further redevelopment in town, the South Lake Tahoe City Council heard a grim picture Tuesday outlining a loss in sales tax dollars with shoppers leaving the area to buy an assortment of goods.

That assessment comes from a study presented at the council meeting by a Boulder, Colo., consultant paid for with $37,000 in California Community Development Block Grant money. The city only had to pay $600.

When all was said and done, Nolan Rosall of RRC Associates suggested the city quickly pursue options to establish retail centers – such as a strip center or a building like Heavenly Village – with a mix of shops. The idea is to at least make a dent in the $219 million the study figures the city loses every year in sales. In a barrage of statistics, Rosall concluded that South Shore consumers and visitors are seeking more of a selection in apparel and general merchandise shops.

Rosall told the council the problem is immediate and will worsen if nothing is done.

“The impact is monstrous – with a pattern of residents going outside the city for everyday purchases,” he said, noting how dependent the city is on visitor spending. “Your suffering would be big time if you didn’t have them.”

The study also pointed out visitors are demanding more of a selection of eating and drinking places.

Tina Rodriguez of Chevy’s Fresh Mex Restaurant would agree with that.

“When we have a two-hour wait and people ask me where the nearest restaurant is, that tells me there’s more demand than supply,” she said. That’s the kind of wait diners had outside the Highway 50 eatery over the New Year’s holiday, when the restaurant was open. It was forced to close due to flooding on Dec. 31.

Peggy Eichhorn, who manages commercial properties for Coldwell Banker, McKinney & Associates, said building restrictions keep many business from expanding.

“A lot of these small businesses can’t expand. But in order for (the city) to look at the big picture, they’ll need to gain more commercial floor area,” she said.

The lack of home furnishings came up more than once.

“We’re doing real well. We get people coming in who say: ‘Thank you for being here,'” Pier 1 Imports Store Manager Katy O’Neal said. The store opened Thanksgiving weekend on Emerald Bay Road. She added the company was originally concerned about the declining population of year-round residents. But that could have worked to its advantage, Councilwoman Kathay Lovell pointed out in the meeting.

The council seemed to give up on the idea of attracting a big-box store, given the population base those stores usually require to come into an area.

But Lovell, who identified herself as an amateur shopper, blurted out Old Navy as a prime example of an anchor.

“That could be exactly what you’re looking for,” Rosall said.

Mayor Hal Cole sent Rosall out for the next course of action – identify possible suitors and concentrate on the Tahoe Valley area. The city’s Redevelopment Agency is in the process of mapping out that next stage of redevelopment. In Tuesday morning’s business, it finalized a financing plan to make that happen.

South Lake Tahoe Retail Analysis

— $219 million loss per year in retail sales tax dollars to out-of-the-area shopping.

— $594 million aggregate annual spending demand.

— 386,000 square feet of development needed to gain a quarter of the alleged lost sales.

— 1.3 million square feet of existing commercial space developed; of that, 447,000 is located in the “Y” area, while 379,000 in the Stateline/Ski Run region.

— 24,000 city population; 16,000 unincorporated area population in El Dorado County.

— 1.1 percent city population growth between 2000-05.

— 16.5 percent declining school enrollment for Lake Tahoe Unified School District in the last five years.

— 20 percent lower, $34,707, is the city income level compared to California residents.

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