With Adidas moving out of SF, what could fill city's growing empty retail spaces?

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Sunday, January 7, 2024
With Adidas moving out of SF, what could fill empty retail spaces?
A collaboration between UCLA and the private sector, taking over a space that was once a Westfield mall. What could that mean for San Francisco?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday a new state-of-the-art tech and health research park in Los Angeles.

A collaboration between UCLA and the private sector, taking over a space that was once a Westfield mall.

"This is a race for global dominance in this space. This is about exponentials," Newsom said.

Meanwhile, up north here in the Bay Area -- our own mall in San Francisco is seeing a new store close its doors.

MORE: 'A sad day': Nordstrom officially closes SF flagship store, shoppers say goodbye

Adidas announced Friday they'll be shutting down on Jan. 13.

It's not just mall space that's becoming more available in San Francisco, though. Around the city, office vacancies are at record levels.

That level, now at 35% according to the latest numbers.

With all the unused space, there have been questions over whether San Francisco could do something similar to L.A.

MORE: Cinemark theater closes at SF Westfield Mall but expert says it's part of nationwide issue

"You should be able to take a downtown core and make into, not just a business center, but an innovation center," said Sean Randolph.

Randolph works with the Bay Area Council's economic institute.

He says since the pandemic, several city leaders have been pushing ways to reimagine downtown.

"I can only say that there is real interest in the University of California's desire to look at downtown as an option for campus, for housing, for a number of things," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

But it's not just universities that can take up the empty space, says commercial real estate developer Mark Ritchie.

MORE: 'Seeing the potential': SF's Vacant to Vibrant pop-ups hope to extend their stay in city

Ritchie says artificial intelligence businesses stand out as a rapidly growing consumer of office space in recent years - especially in San Francisco.

"We're in the best position nationally to recover from this based on the hope for future tech employment and whatever is the vanguard for tech," Ritchie said.

Experts say new development won't come without challenges though.

"There's issues with homelessness that are a deterrent for some companies to come in here. There are issues with crime," said Randolph.

However, despite the obstacles, many city residents say they'd support the changes.

"Especially if it's done the right way. Housing, community organizations, afterschool programs," said San Francisco resident Elena Henderson.

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