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What does the Forever 21 bankruptcy filing mean for Downtown Santa Barbara revitalization?

Another brick and mortar casualty announced over the weekend as popular fast-fashion chain Forever 21 files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Based in Los Angeles, the company once had over 800 stores worldwide and announced it will close up to 178 stores.

We do know Forever 21 just renewed their lease at their State Street location for three years back in February.

But what does this mean for Downtown Santa Barbara amidst continued efforts to revitalize State Street?

Officials say news of the filing did not come as a surprise because they had heard that that was in the works and just like the retail landscape, downtown is changing too.

Sasha Nasir works close by the Downtown Santa Barbara Forever 21.

“I can see that there was a lot of items on sale and I was wondering what was up with that but obviously that’s good for the shoppers,” said Nasir.

She admits that if the State Street location were to shutter she would be sad.

“It’s really convenient to just come shop here so yeah I guess I would be a little sad but I’m guessing there could be other things that pop up that are better,” said Nasir.

Officials agree with Nasir, the Executive Director of Downtown Santa Barbara says if the retail space at 901 State were to become available, the two-story building wouldn’t stay vacant for long due to its prime location.

“I would hate to lose them. We really need the retailers in our downtown but I do think that it opens up a space to have a fantastic new retail space or even tech companies,” said Carrie Kelly, Executive Director, Downtown Santa Barbara.

While it may not be forever anymore, Kelly says the downtown organization has seen a lot of really good movement.

“What you see from the outside as you drive up and down State Street, it looks like we have a lot of vacancies but we know that there’s a lot of pending leases and people developing those spaces on the inside.

Kelly notes an optimism when it comes to the continued efforts to revitalize State Street and she anticipates an influx of new businesses opening soon.

“We’re getting a lot of businesses that would have probably relocated, located in the Funk Zone that are coming up to State Street to open so we have some breweries coming in and people that have just signed leases,” said Kelly.

A Forever 21 Spokeswoman says “We have not yet disclosed a list of which stores will close.”

“Forever 21’s restructuring will focus on maximizing the value of our U.S. footprint and shuttering certain international locations. As such, and as part of our filing, we have requested approval to close up to 178 stores across the U.S. The decisions as to which domestic stores will be closing are ongoing, pending the outcome of continued conversations with landlords. We do, however, expect a significant number of these stores will remain open and operate as usual, and we do not expect to exit any major markets in the U.S.” – Forever 21

KEYT 2019

Article Topic Follows: Economy

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