High-end department store under debate

October 27, 2009 10:11:55 PM PDT
Two million dollars has been spent on the campaign around a November 3 ballot measure that would bring a new Nieman Marcus store to downtown Walnut Creek. The money is coming from two competing mall developers.

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With a flurry of phone calls and flyers, the final push is on over Measure I, which would bring a new Nieman Marcus store to Walnut Creek's Broadway Plaza.

The estimated annual tax revenue to the city would be $400,000.

"This sales tax revenue is really, really important to revitalize our local economy," supporter Carole Wynstra said.

But opponents doubt the tax revenue and dispute the measure's claim that it will add 175 new parking spaces.

"The main problem I have is the lack of new parking," opponent Selma King said. "They want to put in mechanical lifts and valet parking and I'm opposed."

Pouring $600,000 into the "No" campaign is Taubman Centers, which had hoped to lure Nieman Marcus to their planned mall in San Ramon.

Macerich, owner of Broadway Plaza, has spent $1.3 million on the "Yes" campaign.

"Nieman Marcus is extremely committed to this community, they have a signed lease with us, a very long term lease and they're ready to come in," Broadway Plaza spokesperson Shelly Dress said.

But Taubman claims Walnut Creek gave unfair advantage to Macerich by waiving longstanding parking requirements.

Taubman's Al Abrams told ABC7 ""We've always strived to have a level playing field. When our interests align with those of local citizens, it makes sense to work together."

"I see that this outside developer has galvanized our community and we're going to use this as a stepping stone to become a stronger community," Walnut Creek Mayor Gary Skrel said.

The original plan for the Nieman Marcus store called for 107,000 square feet of retail space. That has since been scaled down to 92,000.

That is still too big for some people.

"We live here and we have to put up with the problems that occur as a result," opponent Ed Dimmick said.

If voters approve Measure I, Neiman Marcus could open in the spring of 2012.

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