http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2008/01/18/downtowns-new-sizzle


Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - January 18, 2008

Downtown's new sizzle

New buildings, services, 7-day-a-week retailers give thousands new reasons to come downtown

by Jeb Bing

There's more than coffee brewing at Tully's Plaza in downtown Pleasanton.

The 349 Main St. complex, as its developer Craig Sellemeyer calls it, has become the hottest retail property on Main Street and it keeps getting better.

"We have retailers lined up trying to lease space here," Sellemeyer said. "I just wish I could find more properties on Main Street to develop like this to accommodate them."

Sellemeyer worked with others years ago to write Pleasanton's Downtown Specific Plan, a land use and strategic planning document that today serves as a guideline for the downtown district. His biggest disappointment was the decision by planners--and ultimately the City Council--to ignore a plea to impose a "first floor retail only" provision that would have forced new developments downtown to lease ground floors only to restaurants and retail shops.

That was one of several proposals by Craig Scharton, then the director of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, whose other ideas for sprucing up and revitalizing downtown also failed to garner property owner and planning support. These included bringing smaller-size stores such as Crate & Barrel and other chain merchandisers to the downtown, adding more pedestrian-friendly plazas such as Tully's at other Main Street locations and even having the PDA pay for minstrels and other small musical groups to play on Main Street during busy weekends.

"The one thing Scharton brought up that was a very good idea that would have been very good ultimately for downtown was the retail-only ordinance or a retail-preferred ordinance," Sellemeyer said. "If you look at downtown Pleasanton today, unfortunately too much of the space is occupied by financial institutions and non-retail uses."

Sellemeyer is particularly critical of a decision by Bud Cornett, who is investing several million dollars in restoring the Kolln Hardware building, to lease its ground floor space to a bank.

"What our downtown doesn't need is another ground floor bank," Sellemeyer said. "Strong growth retailers--and there are many who would liked to have had a chance on that space--won't want to locate next to a bank. Banks are one of the worst co-tenants there are and this will create negative retail energy on a street that needs better."

Co-tenant energy is in the forefront of Main Street Property Services' principles of development and marketing strategies. A good retailer helps bring business to an area, not just its own store, which is why Sellemeyer believes the corner of Angela and Main streets has become such a successful business model for making Pleasanton's downtown more attractive and prosperous. Developer Larry McColm's architecturally striking corner building at 350 Main, across from Tully's, and Sellemeyer's similarly appealing Stacey's Cafe at 310 Main are crowded day and night. These businesses follow the same formula that Sellemeyer imposes on Tully's, Hi Tech Burrito, Cold Stone Creamery, Bibiane Bakery and Fontina Ristorante at the 349 complex--stay open seven days a week from morning to night just as you would do at Stoneridge Shopping Center.

Look elsewhere on Main Street and, except for Towne Center Books, Domus, a few other retailers and restaurants, most of the retail space is dark at night. More retailers are opening on Sundays, but banks, which still dominate much of the Main Street frontage space, are open during bankers' hours, which doesn't include Sundays, holidays or evenings. When pedestrians start passing by long stretches of financial institutions and real estate offices, their buying momentum starts fading, Sellemeyer believes.

That's why he's happy to have just signed a lease with Bollinger Nail Spa for the space just vacated by Hometown GMAC Real Estate on Main Street. Spas are a growing business, whether a medical spa that offers cosmetic surgery, a full-body spa that includes body wraps and massages or a popular manicure and pedicure service such as Bollinger, who now operates four salons in the East Bay.

"We're really excited about the chance to put a spa on the east side of Main Street and thereby increase foot traffic in this part of downtown," Sellemeyer said. "Bollinger will have about 3,600 square feet of floor space, making them twice as large as the next largest salon or spa, so we know it will generate a lot of customer traffic."

As popular as Tully's Plaza has become, it wasn't a city planning favorite when Sellemeyer's group first proposed it. Most downtown city building codes generally call for structures to reach right to the sidewalks or corners, which is common in most downtowns. But Sellemeyer--and Scharton--wanted something different, a gathering place where pedestrians could sit and visit while enjoying their downtown shopping experience. Now, 10 years later, city planners hope Sellemeyer or other property owners will add a pedestrian-family plaza farther north on Main, where retail traffic is suffering, or farther south where there's almost none at all.

To make the plaza a success, Sellemeyer allowed only food and beverage tenants to lease space.

"The plaza is part of the building complex so it's jointly shared," he explained. "So you can go there for an ice cream cone at Cold Stone, meet a friend who has coffee from Tully's and have a friend who just bought a burrito at Hi Tech join you at the same outdoor table. It's European-style outdoor companionship at its best."

But he also points out that as eager as some in the city are to replicate the plaza concept on other parts of Main, it's food that drives Tully's Plaza's success. If he had leased the space at 349 Main to dress shops or boutiques, there'd be little synergism for customers to spend time outside.

Sellemeyer and other property owners who have successful retail tenants are sometimes criticized for the higher rents they charge. But Sellemeyer says those property owners actually collect the least rent. Someone may charge $3 a square foot down the street in a part of Main Street that generates little pedestrian business, but the tenant has poor sales performance and actually spends more on rent. At the 349 building, rents are as high as $7, but business is so good that the percentage paid on rent is much less.

Faced with growing competition from a revitalized downtown in Livermore and plans for a Disney-type Main Street concept for an outdoor shopping mall in Dublin, across from Hacienda Crossings, Pleasanton business will need to upgrade their stores, product offerings and services. Sellemeyer is concerned that too many retailers here like to close their doors at 5 p.m. and all day Sunday and much of Saturday. That doesn't work anymore when there are more alternatives nearby.

"Sure, the ambiance of our historic downtown Pleasanton is a draw, but it's not what really brings shoppers or diners here," Sellemeyer told the PDA's Downtown Vitality Committee recently. "We've always had the old buildings, but, even so, downtown has had a number of ups and downs nevertheless. It's what you sell and offer and the hours you provide those services that count."

"Downtown Pleasanton is like a stage," he added. "The colorful historic sets are nice to look at, but without good actors and a script, no one's going to buy tickets just to look at the attractive backdrop."

Comments

Posted by downtown shopper, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Mr. Sellemeyer is not only pompous but is grossly mis-informed. Figuring that there are 168 hours in a week and using an average for merchants of 63 hours per week being open, that means that EVERY store is closed MOST of the hours of every week. He says downtown needs more retail and then he rents to a spa. It may be a very nice spa but it is not retail.
The article states, "Sellemeyer and other property owners who have successful retail tenants are sometimes criticized for the higher rents they charge. But Sellemeyer says those property owners actually collect the least rent." Do the math, they certainly DO collect more rent. They may collect a smaller percentage but it is more dollars.
He says that stores need to upgrade and that all but one or two are closed at 5 PM. I have shopped in every store downtown and have yet to meet anyone who even knows what this guy looks like (other than his tenants). Obviously he does not patronize any of these places or he would know they are all very nice and most stay open past 5 PM.
Get your facts straight before writing an advertorial that is designed to generate you more tenants.


Posted by Confused, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:54 pm

I could be wrong, or I simply took Mr. Sellmeyers points differently. I think he was trying to advocate adding more retail business for Main Street and not non destination businesses like Banks.

I agree that in order for Downtown to be a "destination" there is simply not enough to attract one to go to Main Street to shop on a consistent basis. I think sometimes we confuse the "romance" of Main Street read, the parades, street fairs, strolls etc... with real economic vitality? I've heard personally from many merchants that while they enjoy these events, they really do nothing to bring retail business (spending) to thier operations. In fact in many ways they accomplish the opposite by have storefronts blocked many times during prime Saturday and Sunday events. This is compounded by the fact that regular customers won't come due to lack of parking!

Add to this that many times "temporary" business are allowed to come to these fairs and leverage the attendance of these events while only having to pay a small "rental fee" in order to have access to these large crowds and the result is a perfect storm of bad news for those businesses who pay full time to provide this opportunity for these great events.


Posted by Michael S, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 9:15 am

Economics prove that not doing the right things to keep things moving in Downtown will ultimately be its demise. More restaurants, entertainment, and bars (that's right, I said bars), are sorely needed in order to keep this area vibrant.

If Pleasanton doesn't do it, then Dublin, Livermore, and other local cities will do it and take even more business from the downtown area.

I'm extremely disappointed to see yet another spa go in at the old GMAC office. Considering there's one upstairs from there and one right around the corner, it doesn't make much sense. This is yet another type of business that likes to close their doors early, so I have no concept as to why anyone would be touting their arrival.


Posted by Michael S, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 9:16 am

Economics prove that not doing the right things to keep things moving in Downtown will ultimately be its demise. More restaurants, entertainment, and bars (that's right, I said bars), are sorely needed in order to keep this area vibrant.

If Pleasanton doesn't do it, then Dublin, Livermore, and other local cities will do it and take even more business from the downtown area.

I'm extremely disappointed to see yet another spa go in at the old GMAC office. Considering there's one upstairs from there and one right around the corner, it doesn't make much sense. This is yet another type of business that likes to close their doors early, so I have no concept as to why anyone would be touting their arrival.


Posted by rick, a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Feb 8, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Mr. Sellemeyer nailed it. Pleasanton's downtown is a quaint but very boring place.
This place reminds me of Niles. All we need now is tumbleweed rolling down Main Street.

Sweeping changes are needed. I liked Mr, Sellemeyer's suggestions such as
retail and restaurants only on first floor business's and attracting an anchor tenant. I'm sure the entrenched downtown association will squash any new ideas.
Pleasanton residents will just spend there money eslewhere.







Posted by Confuste, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 9, 2008 at 11:48 am

I agree with you feedback Rick, other than the part "Pleasanton residents just spending money elsewhere ;-)

There _are_ at least some businesses "worthy" of making the trip downtown such as Domus, Wine Steward, Accentials (sp)?, Clover Creek etc...

The "entrenched downtown association", aka PDA is a powerless organization regarding "bringing new business to town", it is not the focus or responsibility to recruit businesses in any way shape or form. The official role of the PDA is to "manage" the downtown events such as antique shows, wine strolls, tree lighting's etc.... that are "supposed" to attract residents and others downtown who would thereby patronize our downtown businesses.

Unfortunately these events do little to bring any new business to town as most that attend are Pleasanton residents who are already aware of the businesses that exist in our downtown, and are simply coming to enjoy the advertised "event". The PDA handles organization, setup, teardown, security and clean up.

I like you, would love to see an "anchor tennant or tennant's" of name brand, but without an overhaul of the current plan there is not adequate space, or opportunity for a tennant of true anchor size anywhere downtown? The single largest building I am aware of is the remolded Koln Hardware building and it will now apparenty hold a Bank? BTW, in a era of online banking and electronic movement of money etc.... 1. why do we need _another_ bank on Main St. (I believe there are 7)! as banks are essentially 9 to 5 operations.

If downtown Pleasanton is to be a "destination" there would need to be a master plan of what it would look like, whom desirable tennants would be, and how they should/could be pursued/courted. As a person very familiar with "downtown politics" I simply do not see a plan change coming any time in the near future (next 5 years), that could facilitate these types of changes.


Posted by Downtown Resident, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 11, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Mr. Sellemeyer, You should have practiced what you preached in your advertorial. A spa? Who are you fooling? We need another spa in downtown like we need another Italian restaurant or Bank. Unfortunately it is not just the retail and restaurant culture that needs to change, it is the city council and the Pleasanton Downtown Association leadership. Downtown is in great need of a fresher, younger outlook. Danville, Walnut Creek and now even Livermore and Dublin have tuned in. Pleasanton's city leaders including he PDA have felt no need to consider change. It's really quite sad to waist such a great row of historic buildings and a close knit community in this manner.


Posted by Dawn, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I live two blocks off Main street and I often wonder why there are not more destination oriented places on Main. I have patronized just about all the eateries and a fair share of the retail outlets but often times need to leave the area if I have any interest in doing anything other than eating or shopping. As the previous visitor wrote, we just might need another BAR or two that offers some form of entertainment. The Mainstreet brwewery and Pleasanton hotel do admirable jobs but there just seems to be something lacking. To take it a step further I work for a fairly large Hotel in Pleasanton and the feedback I get from guests I send to Downtown range from "quaint" and "boring" to "Why do they roll up the sidewalks at 10"? I now the PDA does many great things like the first wednesday and Concerts on Friday and the fairgrounds draws a lot of people but what about Mr and Mrs Smith from out of state who go to Livermore or Dublin to spend the money they left the house with every intention to spend on entertainment? Im not saying I have any answers, but there sure are a lot of questions.


Posted by Music Lover, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 19, 2008 at 9:44 am

How about a Jazz club with new up and coming atists? Is that a bar? The Pleasanton Hotel is dated and tired. The average age of folks in there after 10 on Friday is atleast 65 yrs. The Cheese Factory is pub/ale house blue collar.

When Jazz bands play at concert in the park, there is a great turn out.

Anyone want to open a Jazz club?


Posted by Shelley, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 19, 2008 at 5:00 pm

A jazz club would be rad. You could get musicians that play all kinds of jazz, from old school swing to experimental to afro-cuban. It could be like a Yoshi's, but no sushi (Pleasanton has waaayyy too many sushi restaurants. btw, did I mention that I just live Ulferts in Dublin?).


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 20, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Ulferts reminds me of the ugly two-story strip malls I used to see in Southern California or even in Vegas. The restaurants there may be nice, but the building itself is a monstrosity.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Aug 20, 2008 at 7:13 pm

If downtown does not develop some quality parking the game will be over.

My company has looked to lease 2nd floor office space (about 3600 sq. ft.) downtown that would bring 12 to 15 people into the downtown area. Most of these people would eat lunch daily at a restaurant and visit shops.

The problem is that buildings are being built and remodeled but do not provide adequate parking for tenants or customers.

I think 349 Main St and the Kolln Hardware building are prime examples of a lack of planning for parking.


Posted by Growing in Pleasanton, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 18, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I grew up here in Pleasanton! When downtown was nothing but bars.
And I know all the new Pleasanton people would never go for that.
Not our cute little Downtown Pleasanton! Maybe a classy Jazz club or Piano bar would be nice. I remember when the mall went in and downtown became a ghost town. Downtown Pleasanton has come a long way.
At least we have The Farmers Market and some shopping now.
maybe the other end of main st needs a little commercial mall area like the Tully's and Cold Stone area? There are ways we can go commercial and still and keep the little town look and feel.
But if another Italian place goes in, I think I'll puke!
Oh and for Mr. Sellemeyer "THE NEW SPA" We all know it's NOT a spa!
It's a glorified Asian Nail salon just like the rest of them.
They just had a better decorator.