Grass Valley officials: Buxton Report too outdated to review Dorsey Marketplace project
In June 2011, the city of Grass Valley commissioned a Fort Worth, Texas-based consumer analytic company to track shopping trends and retail opportunities in the community, as well as local sales leakage when residents “shop down the hill.”
The result of that study, the Buxton Retail Trade Market Analysis, will be used along with two other reports to guide the selection of potential tenants for the proposed 26.9-acre Dorsey Marketplace Project, representatives of the mixed-used development said.
But the names of potential tenants still remain obscure as residents of Grass Valley prepare for the first community forum, slated for March 1, to discuss a project that has the potential to alter the economic, environmental and cultural aspects of Grass Valley.
“Who are the tenants,” said Jason Fouyer, mayor of Grass Valley. “I think for a lot of us that’s a big question, and at this point in time, I don’t know who the tenants are.”
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Project representative Katy Schardt told The Union on Feb. 9 that it is still too early in the application process to pinpoint potential shop owners, but the applicant will use the Buxton report, an economic strategy plan, and a focus group study conducted by staff in 2013 to gauge retail needs in the area.
Some city officials are saying that those reports are outdated, and that they will be assessing the retail needs of the community based on a new financial study.
“It definitely points out things that we already know, like people are already shopping down the hill,” said Fouyer. “2011 is different from 2016; I don’t know the stores we identified in 2011 are still of interest to people in 2016.”
“It was an elaborate study,” said Community Development Director Tom Last. “That report was very specific in terms of identifying all kinds of retailers that will do well in our community.”
But Last agreed that it’s possible the spending patterns analyzed in the previous studies might not apply to the situation in Grass Valley today.
“The economy changes, how people shop changes all the time…it’s hard to deal with,” said Last.
City Manager Bob Richardson said the Buxton report means little as officials begin the review process for Dorsey, adding that the bulk of the financial analysis will come from the environmental impact report.
According to city officials, the EIR will include a fiscal analysis that measures the amount of income the project will generate for Grass Valley as well as the fiscal impact to the region.
LOOKING AT THE REPORTS IN DETAIL
In January 2011, the city released an “Economic Development Strategy,” which highlights a list of long-term and short-term goals to increase sales revenue for the city and promote job growth.
One of the objectives identified was “pursuing new opportunities for retail and commercial businesses.” This action plan prompted a series of studies to gauge consumers need and retail pattern in the area.
Through a yearlong contract that cost $65,000, the Grass Valley City Council in 2011 commissioned Buxton to create a report on the shopping patterns of Nevada County residents.
Using purchasing information extracted from consumers’ credit cards, the report identified the biggest consumer group in the area to be urban commuter families, which make up 23 percent of the market. This group was described as primarily upscale, educated baby-boomer couples and families.
Furniture, electronics, appliances, sporting goods and music stores were listed as products Grass Valley consumers are buying elsewhere.
But most importantly, the survey reported that Grass Valley, and west Nevada County in general, was losing more than $200 million in sales annually, as residents travel down the hill to do their shopping.
In August 2012, the Grass Valley City Council allocated $7,500 from federal funds to the Chico-based Chabin Concepts to conduct a focus group study to assess the shopping preferences of residents in the area.
The Focus Group Study incorporated the results of 630 online surveys and the assessment of a focus group of 31 locals.
The survey revealed that many residents are unsatisfied with JC Penny and K-Mart, the two major national chain stores in the area. Instead, many opted for Target, Ross, Marshalls, and Kohl’s.
Despite the outdated surveys, officials said the data about local sales leakage remains consistent.
“There is a lot of money spent outside of our community,” said Last. “That is a known fact that hasn’t changed.”
Richardson encouraged residents to participate in the forum to have their opinions heard.
“We have what is going to be a good year-long process, we will have meeting after meeting where we will encourage the input from our residents,” said Richardson. “If they have concerns or desires for the applicant, they will need to bring it forward.”
Fouyer identified several steps that need to happen as the review gets under way.
The city council needs to determine whether the community needs additional retailers, he said. If the community says yes to that, officials and residents then need to examine what they want the project to look like. If the project is approved, staff will need to identify the retailers that wish to move to the city.
“We have a long road ahead of us in the process,” Fouyer added. “We want it to be a community-led discussion, not developer-driven.”
To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please call 530-477-4236, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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