As we move further into the deleveraging economy of the “Great Correction,” the issue of who is going to shop at Plaza San Clemente (the outlet mall planned for ) when, and if it is built, needs to be addressed.
Did this project make sense, even in a booming economy, to take part of 247 acres of prime ocean view land and put an outlet mall on it? It makes you wonder.
Outlet malls are supposed to go in remote locations like Cabazon and Camarillo, not prime ocean view land. With the real unemployment at about 17 percent and nearly everyone else except the uber rich cutting back, who is going to buy the goods and services the Marblehead outlet shops will produce?
SunCal, the primary developer of Marblehead, has recently emerged to once again become a major California property owner. Its latest plan is to reclaim bankrupt properties it once owned, like the 247 acre Marblehead project, Plaza San Clemente.
Standing in SunCal’s way is the Lehman Brothers court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, who may squelch the deal.
But with SunCal’s recent acquisitions of property in California, don’t count the land acquisition giant out.
One thing is certain: the end result will be a windfall for the attorneys who argue the case in court.
While all of these machinations play out, there is some movement on the infrastructure promised to the city of San Clemente as construction of the bridge has resumed. The Pico improvement is near completion and things are looking up for the city.
With Target nearing completion, Walmart chugging along, nearby Costco and Smart & Final one mile from San Clemente’s city limit, how much need is there for the proposed 120 stores at the Marblehead Outlet? Just what will these stores be, and when will they be ready?
Craig Realty Group, the developer of the center, once said construction should begin late summer 2011 (isn’t that now?) with an anticipated opening in the late fall/early winter of 2012. Of course waiting for this to happen is like Waiting for Godot in the Samuel Beckett play.
As for the stores themselves, Plaza San Clemente will contain upscale retail shops and restaurants. With consumer spending in the doldrums and likely to remain there for a long time, it’s silly to assume that these posh stores will lure customers away from Target, Walmart, et. al. who needs more?
Craig Realty calls Plaza San Clemente a destination retail and entertainment center with “breathtaking ocean views, lush landscaping and unique water features.”
“A mixture of dinner houses and casual dining, a boutique hotel with visitor and conference facilities, and a blend of neighborhood services,” will complement the outlet and retail stores in the 650,000 square foot project.
Sounds good but it is based on the dubious premise of “if you build it, they will they come.” This Field of Dreams scenario is truly, to mix metaphors and quote Joe Hill, a pie-in-the-sky promise.
Valet parking will be offered during peak shopping periods. Valet parking in San Clemente is an anachronism in 2011.
Craig Realty thinks it is 2005 and that San Clemente is Newport Beach. Wrong. The most sensible plan for the next 20 years for most of the public is to survive.
The days of "he who dies with the most toys wins," are over. Two generations of Americans have lived beyond their means. Wages have remained flat for the last four decades while purchases and debt skyrocketed. A recent USA Today article reported that the total of America's debts and unfunded obligations increased by $5.3 trillion last year and now stands at $534,000 per household.
With a debt like that it is no time to go to the Mall.
Furthermore, the type of stores Plaza San Clemente will host, according to the Craig Realty website is, “a wide variety of nationally recognized designer brand outlet stores offering apparel and accessories typically featured in ads of magazines such as Allure, In-Style, Vanity Fair and Lucky.”
Wow! Just the type of goods that do not appeal to our blue-collar roots. Those in San Clemente who want to create a Newport Beach “vibe” just don’t get it. We welcome Target but eschew pricey “designer brands.” We are a Spanish Village by the sea, not a shopping Mecca.
Craig Realty’s assertion that Phase I is currently over 75 percent “committed” is ludicrous. Jancee Aellig, leasing executive for Craig Realty Group, claims, “To date, leases have been signed with 31 tenants and another 9 are in lease negotiations ... Also, the landlord is in negotiations with an additional 30 tenants which account for 100 percent of the Phase 1 retail portion.”
Aellig declined to name the tenants that have signed leases. Now we have mythical tenants in a non-existent outlet mall. What fantasy is next?
Where does all of this leave San Clemente? A financier in bankruptcy, a developer trying to finagle a 45-percent discount on price, another developer promising leases but not naming lessees—sounds like “humbug” to me.
In short, it is a long way to an outlet mall in San Clemente and all those anticipated tax revenues that were supposed to come with it.