Jun 17, 2013 8:31 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News
Santa Maria city leaders have long debated what to do with an 85,000 square foot vacant retail space in downtown.
It was a Mervyns store at one time but the space has sat empty for years.
Last week, the Santa Maria Planning Commission gave the go ahead to retailer Fallas Discount Store to move in. However, due to the size of the space, the city council will need to approve the move as well, something that may not be easy.
"There's a downtown specific plan that was approved in 2008 and it has some policies in it that talk about the vision for the downtown area," said Larry Appel, Santa Maria City Planner.
In that vision is a plan to turn this vacant building into a first-class retail store to draw shoppers from all over the region.
The only retailer to come forward with real interest in the space has been Fallas Discount Store.
"There's been question to whether the Fallas department store has that ability," said Appel.
The site is considered the anchor to the down town plan.
"There are a lot of small businesses there that rely on a large customer base, so when Mervyns was operating, all of the store fronts were being used in town center west," said Appel.
However, since Mervyns closed five years ago, many surrounding stores have gone under.
While Fallas may not be in the city's plan, keeping the doors locked would cost them $50,000 a year in lost sales taxes.
Art Atrops lives in Santa Maria but said he and his wife travel to San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara because the area just doesn't have the high-end stores they like.
"We don't feel another bargain store is needed because there's enough of those in town," said Atrops.
Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino agrees and will make that clear at Tuesday's city council meeting.
"You look at what's going on across the street with the theater and the mall and the investment that have been made there, we want to see the same thing basically across the street," said Patino.
KSBY spoke with the property owner of Big Five Sporting Goods and Rite Aide located inside the Town Center West. He said both retailers say they may be forced to relocate if the building is not filled soon.
The city is addressing the building's future at the city council meeting Tuesday night.
The council is currently split on whether to allow a Fallas Discount Store to move into the space.
The council will also discuss a possible moratorium on bargain basement discount stores at its meeting Tuesday night.
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