Hiring consultants to review Santa Barbara’s downtown is a good thing on one level, but I’m sure after much digging they’ll find two obvious things to be true. First, the rents are too high, plain and simple. Independent vendors have to be incredibly profitable to make the rent here, which only leaves chain stores, and even they are hurting. Secondly, people aren’t “walk-shopping” like they once did due to online shopping. Every mall expert says this. Those two mixed together equals disaster.
Sadly most property owners obviously don’t have any qualms about seeing a storefront empty for long periods if they aren’t getting the money they ask for, some standing empty and dusty for years, places like the old Panera spot on the corner of State and Ortega come to mind.
Closing State Street might help, as well as making it less about tourist spots, but all of this will fall flat if land owners aren’t willing to budge more to the realization that the days of $6,000-$10,000 (or more) rent are over.