Wooing larger stores may be key to Telegraph’s success

Student shopping and nightlife needs may play a key role in the future of Telegraph Avenue. Photo: kukkurovaca

Student shopping and nightlife needs may play a key role in the future of Telegraph Avenue. Photo: kukkurovaca

Telegraph Avenue could use more large clothing retailers and a grocery store, along with more options for nightlife and buying household goods, if it hopes to grow financially moving forward, city staff said Tuesday as part of a special work session on the avenue.

Some officials said the city needs to take a proactive approach to marketing properties that become available, and perhaps adjust the city’s permitting process to make it easier to attract larger businesses. Others said landlords might take it upon themselves to lower rents for new businesses, so the burden isn’t only on the city.

“I think we have to go out on dates,” said Councilwoman Linda Maio. “I think we have to identify retailers that we want, that we have a space for. I think we have to introduce them to the mayor. I think we have to wine and dine them and bring them into town. I think we have to show them the campus and the enormous potential here. I don’t think it’s going to serve us well to sit back and wait for somebody to come our way.”

City economic development manager Michael Caplan spoke about the importance of packaging the many changes underway on the avenue, along with economic data about “opportunity sectors,” such that they can be presented to potential retailers in a proactive way. (He said the downtown’s business district is in the midst of a similar process, with the help of a retail consultant.)

Staffers noted the neighborhood’s 48% decline in retail sales since 1990, an “increasingly edgy street scene,” a devastating fire in 2011, and a rapid decline in recent years in sales of books and music, which made up 43% of the district’s sales in 2007 and now make up just 21%. The area primarily under discussion was Telegraph Avenue from Bancroft Way south to Parker Street.

Click the chart to see a full overview on Telegraph's economic situation, which was presented Tuesday by Berkeley city staff.

Click the chart to see a full overview on Telegraph’s economic situation, which was presented Tuesday by Berkeley city staff.

In Tuesday night’s special work session, City Manager Christine Daniel asked for guidance from the Berkeley City Council on whether the city is heading in the right direction for the future of the avenue.

Mayor Tom Bates thanked staff for their in-depth analysis, and pointed out other city efforts underway to fix street lighting, allow upper-floor office use, allow Sunday street celebrations and change traffic patterns on Bancroft and Durant, all of which are designed to tackle the neighborhood’s challenges. Still to be determined, however, is how to resolve the reason many say they stay off the avenue.

“One of the reasons people don’t go there is because of the street behavior, and we have to face that,” said Bates. “Unless the street behavior gets modified in some way and people feel comfortable going, all our efforts are going to be reduced, let’s just put it that way.”

The restaurant sector is one of Telegraph’s dominant economic drivers, with a large chunk of the roughly 1,250 jobs on the avenue in food service. About 40% of the avenue’s total taxable sales are food related; citywide, restaurants generate closer to 20%. Clothing sales generate another 22% of the district’s taxable sales, making it the strongest “retail sub-sector” on the avenue.

Caplan said a key consideration going forward would be to consider the interests of the nearly 5,000 students who live on campus or in UC-owned residences nearby. From the staff report: “Another important point here is that even though the campus’ student population shows little formal income, its buying power is significant and represents a customer opportunity that has not been fully tapped.” (Read the full report.)

Dave Fogarty, from the city’s Office of Economic Development, said another 9,150 people live within a quarter-mile of campus, and that 51,000 people live within a mile.

Staffers referenced a study that found that most student spending takes place outside Berkeley, and that Telegraph Avenue could benefit from investment by larger “anchor” stores selling clothing or groceries. The closure in 2011 of Andronico’s left a major gap in neighborhood grocery options; Bates said Amoeba Music used to be a grocery store and should perhaps consider one day becoming one again.

Projects in development on Telegraph include, from left, the new Sequoia building; El Jardin and 2501 Haste; and the Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media.

Projects in development on Telegraph include, from left, the new Sequoia building; El Jardin at 2501 Haste; and the Mad Monk Center.

Much of the discussion revolved around how to create spaces on Telegraph that would be attractive to large retailers, especially with several new developments underway, including the new Sequoia buildingEl Jardin at 2501 Hastethe Mad Monk Center; and the Center for Independent Living. The former Ned’s space will also open up once UC’s Lower Sproul project is complete, and the Cal student store moves back to campus.

Three of these projects, at Haste and Telegraph, “offer the possibility of a completely transformed corner – a change from one of the most challenged corners in the City to one of the most dynamic,” according to the staff report.

As part of Tuesday’s report, staff took a look at other “near-to-campus” districts around the country. Many, said Caplan, have “Telegraph-like” atmospheres and also struggle with declining retail sales. One common characteristic was the finding that independent businesses in those neighborhoods often thrive alongside a “common set of national chains,” such as “a Walgreens or CVS pharmacy, Urban Outfitters, Chipotle and often a Jamba Juice or Starbucks.”

Telegraph, however, has less nightlife and fewer options for arts and entertainment than the other neighborhoods: “If the area can address these deficiencies and create more ‘gathering spaces’, it will likely help it attract a greater diversity of people. A study done by the graduate student union two years ago found that many graduate students felt they had to go to Oakland or San Francisco to have a fun date night out. That is clearly a market that Telegraph is in a position to tap.”

Councilman Kriss Worthington — who represents the Telegraph Avenue neighborhood on the council — said parking issues, related to poor signage and parking validation information, and high crime are among the biggest obstacles keeping visitors from the avenue. Joint foot and bike patrols by UC and Berkeley police are a “significant step” in the right direction for safer streets, he said. But more needs to happen.

“Individual people acting out on the street can cause problems,” he said, “and, while we don’t want to criminalize the homeless or poor people as a class, we do want to be able to address people who are acting negatively toward residents or people who work there or shop there.”

Worthington said he’d like to see the Telegraph Business Improvement District identify and monitor “hot spots” on the avenue — to help the city prioritize staff resources — to try to cut down on problems.

“I think the mayor is right,” said Worthington. “If we ignore this, our other efforts are going to be far less effective.”

Related:
Tackling Telegraph Avenue: Is this time different? [03.01.13]
Can Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue get it mojo back? [04.18.12]
Telegraph site owner plans for temporary resurrection [02.06.12]
Imagining a future for Telegraph Avenue without blinders [04.11.12]
Urban think tank: Student visions for blighted Telegraph lot [10.03.11]
City hands ultimatum to Sarachan on vacant Telegraph lot [09.07.11]
What about that vacant lot on Haste and Telegraph? [08.11.11]
Berkeley students want better stores, fewer street people [05.31.11]
City says it is addressing Telegraph Avenue rats problem [02.10.11]

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  • Mel Content

    Trader Joe’s in Emeryville and the Safeway at 51st and Broadway in Oaktown took care of most of my shopping needs when I was at Cal. Telegraph was for the occasional pizza and beer, not much more.

  • Mel Content

    It’s safe to conclude that you wish to protect the entire dysfunctional Telegraph/People’s Park scene when you mike idiotic tirades about “suburbia”.

  • Mel Content

    I find it laughable that lefties make snide remarks because it’s clearly these lefty kooks who are out of their own comfort zone if not surrounded by criminals, losers and freaks.

  • Mel Content

    “I think a lot of the people involved with the planning process on Telegraph Ave. basically think of a “typical Berkeley student” as a walking 60’s stereotype:”

    Exactly. On the few occasions where we might have some spare time, my classmates and I would prefer to fire up a barbeque, surround ourselves with a good selection of microbrews, and listen to some tunes: some blues, some rock, a bit of Miles and Coltrane with some world music thrown in the mix as well. Many of us were “returning students” and had spent time in the military or working in the private sector, transferring to Cal from various community colleges. We had our social and political differences of course (and spared no opportunity to argue and debate among ourselves) but all of us viewed the “typical Berkeley student” per the media as a pathetic cartoon character, not even worthy of being taken seriously as a rational human being.

  • Mel Content

    People’s Park exists for one reason, and one reason only: to be a thorn in the side of the “establishment” and maximize contact (and conflict) between students and the losers who camp out them. All part of the Left’s ongoing plan to create class warfare wherever possible.

  • witchguest

    >Mel Content
    lel

  • Mel Content

    Hang around in “da Forties” on International on Saturday and you can participate in a nice “sideshow” with the local feral urban youth. Given the choice of associating with low-lifes and staying at home, I’ll take a bottle of Pliny the Elder and a good book with some decent tunes in my headset.

  • Mel Content

    “They may not look clean-cut and normal but they have every bit as much
    of a right to be there as I do. I do wonder why they come.”

    The answer to your second sentence is the attitude of the powers that be who have the same attitude that you expressed in your first sentence. Why don’t you think a bit about that and get back to us?

  • Charles_Siegel

    Mel, your comment is totally off base. If you had ever read my comments on Berkeleyside in the past, you would know that what you are saying is untrue. If you knew anything about city planning, you would know that most urbanists today agree with my criticism of auto-dependent development.

    Next time, try to think before you write.

  • guest

    “I think a lot of the people involved with the planning process on
    Telegraph Ave. basically think of a “typical Berkeley student” as a
    walking 60’s stereotype: […blather…]”

    You are very poorly informed, then.

  • pinkus

    Lower wage jobs? You really think any store on Telegraph pays well? But besides that, there’s not a single grocery store anywhere to be found around Cal or anything remotely like Ikea or Target where someone can buy a friggin’ table or a jacket. How many headshops and pizza joints do we need?

    Please Tom, get back into your Time Machine to 68′ and leave us people of the 21’st Century in peace.

  • jth

    Except that International doesn’t really reach downtown proper; it dead-ends into the SE corner of the Lake. There is actually a lot going on along Broadway these days, but I’ll save my breath since from your other comments I can tell that you’re mostly just here to make weird, cryptically racist insinuations about parts of Oakland and Berkeley.

  • jth

    Funny, I don’t remember declaring anything of the sort when I voted against Measure S. Just because I thought it was the wrong solution doesn’t mean I deny the existence of the problem. You should know better.

  • guest

    From Charles Siegel: “‘I must live in a different world from many of the commenters.”

    No. We live in the same world, with different experiences. Imagine visiting the once vibrant main street of the little company town you grew up in, years after the mill closed…vacant stores, bums passed out drunk on the sidewalk, graffiti and garbage everywhere. If you heard some one say; “It’s not so bad”, what would you think?

    On Telegraph, the mill (the University) didn’t close, the city drove it away trying to create a destination tourist attraction where they could relive their hippie glory days …complete with drug dealing and white kids with dreads napping on the street with their pit bulls.

    “Having all the vendors out on the street makes is seem more friendly and welcoming to me.”

    Having all the vendors out on the street makes is seem like a cheap bazar selling tourists junk made in China. Imagine these ‘artisans’ selling crap and blocking the foot traffic in front the store you’re trying to keep afloat (taxes, payroll, rent).

    “but I still prefer Telegraph immeasurably over an ugly, sterile, impersonal place like El Cerrito Plaza.”

    That’s a perspective common among of an even more common variety of Berkeleyan:

    The aging Boho: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boho

    These connoisseurs of retirement life among Berkeley’s coffee shops, thrift stores and
    cheap eats places have little connection to the trivial concerns of everyday life. A self proclaimed ‘worldly’ aesthetic sense and elbow patches are their armor against time.

  • guest

    From Charles Siegel: “‘I must live in a different world from many of the commenters.”

    No. We live in the same world, with different experiences. Imagine visiting the once vibrant main street of the little company town you grew up in, years after the mill closed…vacant stores, bums passed out drunk on the sidewalk, graffiti and garbage everywhere. If you heard some one say; “It’s not so bad”, what would you think?

    On Telegraph, the mill (the University) didn’t close, the city drove it away trying to create a destination tourist attraction where they could relive their hippie glory days …complete with drug dealing and white kids with dreads napping on the street with their pit bulls.

    “Having all the vendors out on the street makes is seem more friendly and welcoming to me.”

    Having all the vendors out on the street makes is seem like a cheap bazar selling tourists junk made in China. Imagine these ‘artisans’ selling crap and blocking the foot traffic in front the store you’re trying to keep afloat (taxes, payroll, rent).

    “but I still prefer Telegraph immeasurably over an ugly, sterile, impersonal place like El Cerrito Plaza.”

    That’s a perspective common among an even more common variety of Berkeleyan:

    The aging Boho: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boho

    These connoisseurs of retirement life among Berkeley’s coffee shops, thrift stores and
    cheap eats places have little connection to the trivial concerns of everyday life. A self proclaimed ‘worldly’ aesthetic sense and elbow patches are their armor against time.

    (don’t know why this double posted)

  • Mbfarrel

    No.. True?

  • Go away Tom.

    You promised you would leave us be,
    Until you got an apology.
    You haven’t got one yet, it’s true to say,
    So kindly up and go away.

  • Chris J

    It would have been more prudent of cindy to leave out Walnut Creek which, financially comparing the cost of gas vs the cost of parking (as well as driving about looking for parking in Berkeley) as not a good comparison.

    I avoid going downtown as much as possible, not only as a bicyclist but especially as a motorist. I’ll go to AMC in Bay Street before I attend any downtown theater showing. Sure, you pay for parking over there, but it’s still more convenient.

    Walnut Creek? The home of homes of big chain crap? Why would one go there?

  • Chris J

    The panhandlers no longer bother me, even if they approach me. Particularly if they’re interrupting their own cell phone call to ask me for change!

  • Chris J

    Yay on Ranch 99.

  • Chris J

    I’m no bleeding heart liberal by a long shot, but massing the denizens of PPark as ‘losers who camp out’ there is unfair. Literally, they are ‘losers’ in the strictest sense of the word, but it doesn’t mean that they are all useless drags on the social welfare net.

  • Mel Content

    [I can tell that you’re mostly just here to make weird, cryptically racist insinuations]

    Nothing like playing the race card when you can’t refute the argument, eh?

  • Mel Content

    I think before I write all the time, Charles. I don’t know about you, but I don’t view “shopping” as some type of enjoyable pastime (unless I’m sampling microbrews) but as a necessity, like paying taxes and going to the bathroom. I’m not there to commune with the locals. I like to get where I’m going in a reasonably expedient manner, pick up what I came for, and get the heck out of there. I don’t go shopping for “soul” or “a sense of community” or “life experience” because I already HAVE a life. I’m not under the illusion that surrounding myself with a bunch of bohemian wannabes when I want to pick up a pack of chicken breasts or a head of lettuce is going to make me a more worldly, compassionate, or more interesting human being. If I can drive up to Trader Joe’s/Safeway/99 Ranch Market, get what I need, and get out of there, I’m a reasonably happy camper. I have a life, and I don’t need to “reaffirm” anything by having some ersatz experience with a bunch of druggies or gutter-punk wannabes…

  • Bob

    Worthington is an f-ing moron if he thinks the issue is parking since most of us (graduate) students DON’T HAVE CARS.

  • Charles_Siegel

    There are always lots of commenters who are too stupid to deal with the issues and who instead resort to personal insults.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I am sorry that you are so unhappy with your life and that you react by spewing out hatred at others.

  • emraguso

    Looks like it may be temporary — re-opening July 1 according to a notice on Yelp. http://www.yelp.com/biz/nibs-restaurant-el-cerrito-2