Counting Up Empty Space on State Street

As the end-of-the-year big retail season fast approaches, it appears several large spaces will remain unoccupied as 2018 comes to a close on State Street. 

Add up the total square footage of empty or soon-to-be empty State Street space and it comes to a whopping 100,000 or so square feet from which the city is no longer collecting revenue. 

The largest space to become unoccupied of late is the former Brownstein Farber Hyatt Schreck law office, 1020 State St. The national firm’s local office moved to the Union Bank building on Carrillo Boulevard last month.  

Nearby, the Sak’s building on State and Carrillo probably will be empty at the start of 2019 since its lease is up and Amazon reportedly has penned an agreement to use the structure, presumably as a tech center. 

Don’t forget that the 17,000-square-foot Staples store, 410 State St., closed earlier this year with no new tenant in sight. Nearby, Sonos has been saying it is leaving the two-story structure at 419 State St. However, it has been a slow departure as the company downsizes and consolidates. 

But that’s another 27,743 empty square feet when it leaves. 

The former Macy’s building at State and Ortega streets has hosted a first-floor Halloween pop-up and some one-time events. The only possible permanent tenant in the three-story structure appears to be an IMax movie theater, but that too is an unconfirmed report. 

Add up the rest of the 30 empty retail spaces on the county’s most visible commercial corridor and one can see the challenge faced by the community to replace all that lost sales tax revenue. 

In the midst of all this is a year without a Santa Barbara downtown organization permanent leader. However, a source said an unconfirmed report that a woman has been named to that role had “jumped the gun.” 

Also pending in the way of leadership is the naming of a “State Street business czar” or consultant, which was called for several months ago by a unanimous city council vote. To date, no one has been named to that taxpayer-paid job. 

And, missing from all the talk and ideas thrown about is the fact that no one has come forward with a real plan to put some type of workforce housing along State Street. The mayor said earlier this year that was one of her wishes. 

She bristles at the notion that nothing is being done to stop the retail bleeding on State Street. Sure, the volunteer ambassadors and police have cleaned up many of the transients, but some of the long-time homeless panhandlers continue to harass passers-by for spare change. 

The only recent bright spot is the prospect of more pop-up businesses because of two city-sponsored “speed-dating” meetings with entrepreneurs and State Street property owners and managers. 

It bears repeating that pop-ups will help slow the bleeding of retail outlets on the corridor, but they are only a Band-aid solution. 

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