Mall wars between developers in Walnut Creek

May 28, 2009 5:40:04 PM PDT
Some are calling it "mall wars." That is when big commercial mall developers fight over new stores and their locations. One of those battlefields is in the East Bay.

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There is a battle underway in Walnut Creek between two big shopping mall developers, with the city and its citizens in the middle. At issue is whether a new 92,000-foot Neiman Marcus store should go in to a vacant location in the Broadway Plaza shopping area.

"This project is a good project," said Brad Kofoed of "Yes for Walnut Creek."

Supporters say the new Neimans would generate $400,000 per year in sales tax revenue.

"Every city in the country is facing this and we're no different," said Kofoed. "We're facing the impending budget shortfalls everywhere."

Opponents of the new store hired folks to gather 6,000 signatures to put the issue to voters.

The petition drive against the new Neiman Marcus store is being paid for by a company called Taubman which manages Concord's Sunvalley Mall, which happens to be about the closest competitor to Walnut Creek's Broadway Plaza.

A Taubman spokesman told ABC7 News the company's not trying to stifle competition -- rather, just helping local citizens like Selma King express their views.

"What I have a problem with is the city doesn't follow their own rules on parking and traffic," said King who opposes the project.

The battle has turned nasty. One of Taubman's signature gatherers claims he received a death threat. Carla Weston says it was a signature gatherer who called her names.

"He said, 'you're just stupid,' and he said, 'you're uneducated,'" said Weston.

Signature gatherer Brad Bothell says that wasn't him.

"If I get a definite no, I leave people alone," said Bothell. "I myself can be aggressive at times, but I try to really moderate my behavior and be on my best behavior out here."

Barring successful challenges, the new Neiman Marcus store would open within five years.

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