State Street 2020: Comings, Goings & More to Come

Less than two months into 2020, it’s time to take another look at the constant ebb and flow on the county’s most visible commercial corridor. 

Coming and going restaurants and retail shops is the latest, but not new, trend. Some of them have just relocated elsewhere, however some are just gone. 

Earlier this year, it was interesting to see the media portray the Amazon building at State and Carrillo as a huge boon to the many restaurants and retail stores around it.  

Uh, guess what? Amazon plans to open its own first-floor restaurant in what used to Saks 5th Avenue where some 200 to 300 employees are working on software for Alexa. 

Most notably, longtime State Street favorite Pascucci has moved from 729 to 509 State St., where Cadiz used to be a few years ago and was Alito’s last year for a few months. That move leaves the 729 spot vacant while no one has filled the 723 State St. spot where Chipotle Mexican Grill shut down several years ago.

Also of interest, Gioia, 532 State St., opened recently in what a long time ago was Zia Café. It’s been a succession of failed enterprises in the past few years, ranging from Korean barbecue to an upstairs comedy club.  

Its rumored one-time $1,000 a-square-foot lease is described as the highest in town. 

Next door, the former Samy’s Camera’s huge space has been leased to – guess what? Another restaurant. 

Up the street at 1221 State St., the lunch-and-dinner restaurant opened recently and filled a long-vacant space, However, two doors down, Santa Barbara Taqueria has yet to open, but is hiring, after taking over the former Jersey Mike’s sandwich shop. 

As far as retail goes Wendy Foster women’s apparel moved to 1220 State St. after abandoning its corner spot at Canon Perdido and State streets. Corner spots are hard to refill. 

For example, that corner spot at Ortega and State streets remains empty years after Panera Bread moved out. A 7-Eleven store was supposed to move in last year, but has yet to open. 

A lot of vacant property can be found on that one corner including the former Verizon store and Tonic night club, which is supposed to be an M. Special brewery by the end of this year, but no apparent construction has started yet. 

And, across the street, the former Macy’s store remains vacant as renovation work continues at Paseo Nuevo. More walkways have to be finished around the outdoor mall by summer. 

A large women and children’s apparel chain store, The Barn, is one of the most recent additions to the 30-year-old mall. 

While some brokers said this month that more spots on State Street are filling up, many storefronts remain empty or have recently been shuttered. 

The Glenn Dallas Art Gallery, 927 State St., is closed for good. Its manager was fretting about the lack of business in January. 

Several boutique spaces around the gallery also remain vacant. Another boutique, near the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf closed in January and papered its windows. 

A number of spots, such as the former Rocket Fizz candy store, 1021 State St., remain empty. Other spots at 1103, 931, 923, 915, 609 and 430 State St. still are vacant. That’s most of them. 

And, the big dog that is vacant is the former Staples store near Gutierrez Street, which has some 17,000 square feet to be filled. 

What’s next? Well, about nine months ago the city council decided to tackled the State Street vacancy problem by hiring a full-time economic development director. The council has been kicking the State Street can down the road for years with committees, public meetings, workshops and finally with an $85,000 consultant from Los Angeles County who said: The city is “unfriendly to business.” 

So, they hired a guy, Jason Harris, from Santa Monica where he had a similar job and will pay $182,000 a year when he starts next month.  

Most media wags thought it was going to be Nina Johnson, the assistant to the city administrator. Guess what? Wrong again. 

On top of that, Robert Samario, the city’s financial director, has been missing in action for a few months and suddenly retired this week.

Posted Feb. 24, 2020.

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