Neighbors and community come together over the old vacant Vic’s IGA market
Camelot Realty: Moved. Brickhouse Oven Pizza: Gone. Erawan Thai Restaurant: Moved. The dry cleaners: Gone? Highlander: Gone. While the list continues, the biggest blow to the South Hills Shopping Center since earlier this year: Vic’s IGA. Things seem to be getting worse. Trash, mattresses and even couches have been found behind the center. And as vacancies at the shopping center mount, neighbors want to know what will become of the old grocery store? Because without a strong shopping center anchor, they fear problems will continue to get worse.
That outlook will not waver the neighborhood’s dedication for preservation and revitalization, however.
“What makes Land Park and South Land Park special, as compared to places like Natomas, Elk Grove or Roseville, is the architecture,” says neighbor Whitney Roberts Fong. “It seems like the residents recognize that when it comes to homes, but the commercial buildings don’t seem to be as cherished. I also hope potential tenants recognize that our neighborhood has the potential to spend a ton there. It’s such an underutilized space; we are all eager to see something great.”
That vision of hope and passion for the shopping center floods South Land Park’s NextDoor every few weeks, says South Land Park Neighborhood Association board member and secretary of the board Brian Ebbert. “It’s interesting how passionate people are about their neighborhood market or lack of. The best case scenario is if the shopping center owners (there’s three of them) put money into the property for quality tenants.”
Will that happen? Let’s hope so.
In his opening remarks at a packed neighborhood meeting held at Giovanni’s Pizza on Wednesday, Nov. 18, regarding South Hills, Sacramento City Councilmember Jay Schenirer said, “It’s important to come together as a city. I am in this with you, but there are limits of the power of the city. As a representative of the city, I have no control of the abilities of the owners of the shopping center.”
Schenirer told the 150 people in the crowd he can help with code enforcement and provide support to business owners, but that only goes so far as there is no more redevelopment money to help support tenants. “Small business owners who are interested in getting a response from the center’s owners, there’s not a whole lot I can do,” he said.
Litter, peeling paint, graffiti – those are items where code enforcement can cite the owner, but even citing an owner can take five to seven years to get it to the point where the city can legally take actions. It’s not some quick fix, city staff explained.
While Sacramento Police Captain Dave Peletta said crime has gone down 50 percent, after the meeting, Ebbert said, “our board was briefed that it was up 35 percent. Well, (Peletta) was talking about within the shopping center. But, that’s because it’s a ghost town and there’s no one to rob.” Ebbert added owners of the south portion hired a security company that helped reduced crime. They also added lighting in the parking lot.
To many people’s displeasure, Schenirer told attendees the old Neptune’s Table (also the Highlander, Red Rose restaurants) will soon get the wrecking ball. “It’s not worth fixing. It’s been there for a long time. Nothing at this point (is slated to replace it). The owners would wait for a tenant built to suit,” he said after the meeting.
With a reported 13 vacancies throughout the shopping center, Schenirer explained that many parts of the building are damaged. “It’s a fairly old site and particularly for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Acts upgrades) for new tenants –that would have to work out for ownership and the tenant. It may be prohibitive at some level.”
The south property, Ebbert said, including the post office was put up for sale for a couple million dollars and there were no takers. “Maybe because that property as a center needs to be bought up by one entity so that it can be a uniform upgrade, so to speak.”
While there are no plans for anything specific at this point for the old grocery store, the city wants neighbors to know that they will continue to reach out to the property owners regarding finding a replacement anchor tenant. The city has contacted the property owners and they’ve also reached out to Trader Joe’s (as have many readers).
But, as Dean Peckam, from the city’s economic development department, told the crowd, “Trader Joe’s has gone to high density infill markets in places like Chicago, Boston, New York City. They use the ground floor in mixed-use communities. Sacramento isn’t on their radar. That’s the reality.”
However, TJ’s hasn’t said “yes” or “no” and the chain has a track record of reusing sites (unlike other bigger grocery stores). An added bonus: There’s not a TJ’s around the neighborhood and there’s solid demographics to support the business.
With Raley’s on Freeport Boulevard soon to be expanding into the old Capital Nursery spot, Safeways on Alhambra Boulevard and 19th Street, the Grocery Outlet on Riverside Boulevard and the Smart and Final on Freeport (near Florin Road), finding a grocer to go into the old Vic’s may be a tough sell to grocers, Peckam explained.
“(The grocery business) is a very difficult business,” Schenirer said in a phone interview after the meeting. “I don’t think the site is appropriate for a store like Nugget or Safeway, the larger chains. The space is a little too small, but maybe we can get a neighborhood grocery store. We’ll do outreach.”
After the meeting, neighbor Gretchen Steinberg, president of Sacramento Modern, a nonprofit that advocates for preserving modern architecture and art, wrote Schenirer’s office thanking them for the public meeting. In her letter she wrote that SacMod has been monitoring the center, participating in various public meetings and engaging in private discussions with other interested parties. She reminded staff of a list of potential markets that neighbors highlighted during discussions on what could fill the grocery store site.
“South Hills Shopping Center is a rare intact example of ‘Googie’ architecture – a mid-20th century modern architecture style – and serves as a visual anchor to the South Land Park Hills neighborhood, which is also a rare and under-appreciated city of Sacramento asset.
“As the city of Sacramento focuses most of its attention on granting entitlements for new shopping centers, it is vitally important to remember our established ones. Legacy businesses generate civic pride and are part of our community.”