I get no pleasure out of writing that the most important corner in downtown Redding is soon going to have a vacancy. The corporate honchos in Seattle decided that the Starbucks at the corner of California and Placer streets in downtown Redding will close.
The Starbucks with a drive-through window at the edge of downtown? That one stays. So does the Starbucks at the other end of downtown inside of Safeway. But the coffee house at the most visible corner in downtown? The store that was supposed to anchor a cornerstone adaptive reuse project? It's closing.
Five months ago, one of downtown Redding's most popular lunch spots closed. Cheesecake's Unlimited had served up salads, sandwiches and other goodies for 17 years. A story in the Record Searchlight newspaper suggested that the local owner, who lost a business partner last year, could no longer keep running two restaurant locations. So he decided to stick with his restaurant across town (located in a strip center between Safeway and a Lowe's big box) and close the original downtown lunch spot.
Interestingly, the owner said that a new Shasta College branch located half a block away did not increase his business. That has to be a difficult for downtown boosters to accept, because the attractive community college facility, although small, was supposed to be a "catalytic" project for downtown.
As many of you know, Redding is the city closest to where I live. I'd love for it to be an exciting, lively place, but it's not. Boosters argue that downtown is "getting better." I appreciate their enthusiasm, but I can't agree with them.
About the same time that Cheesecake's closed, an independent CD, record and paraphernalia shop shut down. Last year, a family-owned men's clothing store closed after decades in business. A Subway was supposed to replace the clothier, but project proponents now say the sandwich shop is doubtful.
At the site of the soon-to-close Starbucks, a property owner invested millions on an adaptive re-use project. But once Starbucks closes, only a small clothing store and the property owner's cosmetics business will remain amid the empty storefronts.
Redding's downtown mall is still some sort of bizarre joke that must be seen to be believed (although it is undergoing an overhaul that may have promise).
Last year, when we ranked downtown Redding the second most disappointing among mid-sized cities in California, some people in City Hall took it as a knock on their redevelopment efforts. Maybe it was, but downtown Redding's failure is far too complete for only the government to get the blame. Property owners and merchants deserve large shares, too.
Ultimate responsibility, though, lies with the community. Redding is a town where people rush to the newest franchise restaurant. Earlier this year, they lined up overnight for the opening of a Chipotle in a rebuilt strip center. Seriously. It's a town where Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Home Depot have big boxes within walking distance of each other – although you'd take your life in your hands trying to make the trip on foot.
In other words, most people who live in Redding don't care about having a vibrant, walkable downtown full of local flavor. And no one – including an urban planning journalist who thinks he knows better – can make them care.
– Paul Shigley
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