Traffic jams dampen sizzle of Paragon Outlets opening
Paragon Outlets opened its $150 million, 543,000-square-foot shopping center over the three-day Veterans Day weekend last week, with an estimated 100,000 cars carrying 350,000 shoppers to the site while thousands more motorists sat fuming in their cars on I-580 and other thoroughfares in traffic caused by the event. Surely the huge crowds at their center coupled with irritated motorists inching just outside must have dampened the opening day mood of executives at the Baltimore-based commercial real estate firm that designed and built Paragon Outlets. Sadly, there's no relief in site, with the traffic snarls on the freeway and surrounding roadways likely to continue through the coming holiday season.
There's no way to get to Paragon Outlets without using I-580 and El Charro Road, a dead-end street within the Pleasanton city limits that now ends at the newly extended Jack London Boulevard just to the south of Paragon. Beyond that, El Charro is basically a truck road serving the gravel operations along Stanley Boulevard. Jack London offers an alternate route to drive into Livermore, where it crosses Isabel Avenue and goes farther east. But Stoneridge Drive, which should have been opened by now, is just now being extended from the Mohr-Martin neighborhood in Pleasanton. It won't open before next October when work on a four-lane bridge over the arroyo is completed. Even across 580, there's little relief. Fallon Road connects to Dublin Boulevard just past the new Target, but there's no road yet to take motorists east to Collier Road, Costco and Las Positas College. That traffic also must use 580.
Last weekend and during the eastbound evening rush hour this week, motorists found long delays as they approached the El Charro exit. Similar tie-ups occurred on Highway 84 as motorists sought an alternate route to their homes in Livermore and to the east. Dublin Boulevard also was crowded by motorists going from jobs to the north to reach their homes along the 580 corridor. Nighttime jams affected thoroughfares in Pleasanton, including Santa Rita Road, Vineyard Avenue and streets in the Hacienda Business Park.
Although business has been brisk at the outlets, other stores in the area, including Target and Costco, have found their stores also affected by the traffic snarls on I-580. Even Wheels, the local bus company, sent out notices to Pleasanton schools advising that buses could be late because of delays its drivers were having in leaving the Wheels barn just off Isabel Avenue. Delays were expected, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Creel, but not the numbers that actually turned out. It's simply a case of more people showing up than the capacity of the roadways to handle them.
Still, Paragon Outlet Partners has reason to be proud. Its new Livermore center is stunning from the outside as well as along the covered walkways inside. It's offering a whole new dimension in outlet centers and a different retail attraction that adds to the region's draw with Stoneridge Shopping Center and Hacienda Crossings. For the thousands of Tri-Valley outlet center aficionados who used to travel to outlet centers in Gilroy, Vacaville and beyond, Paragon Outlets is close to home and offers much more. Its stores, headlined by Prada, Bloomingdale's Factory Store, Armani, Michael Kors, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th and J Crew, to name a few, are high-end retailers serving this area for the first time. Even its spacious food court with a variety of cuisine makes family trips to the shops quite palatable.
Livermore and Paragon Outlets now have the challenge of keeping the sizzle of shopping at Paragon Outlets alive before too many disgruntled motorists make it fade away.