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Retail strong in many areas, rebound looks promising ahead in downtown Santa Barbara

Downtown Santa Barbara retail
(John Palminteri/KEYT)
The anticipated opening of the new Amazon corporate office in downtown Santa Barbara has analysts encouraged about more foot traffic and an economic boost for the area. (John Palminteri/KEYT)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - If you look at the big picture, the retail report on the South Coast is stronger than it may have been a few years ago, with widespread Santa Barbara vacancies and other cities looking for big companies to fill large buildings.

Now Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have joined local giants Deckers, Sonos, Yardi and Procore.

Downtown Santa Barbara, in a slump, has a road map back in the months ahead with business owners leading the way, using creative designs for their available space from the waterfront to Sola street primarily.

There are still many unanswered questions for the La Cumbre Plaza redesign, but there's not shortage of ideas on the drawing board.

The Radius Commercial group held its annual economic forecast review Tuesday at the Hilton Resort in Santa Barbara.

Gene Deering with Radius said some blocks of downtown Santa Barbara are rebounding faster than others and it's clear some of the proposals will take longer in spaces such as the vacant Macy's store at the mall and the empty Staples store at Gutierrez. In other blocks he sees multiple offers, sales and plans.

A new hotel is reportedly coming to the 500 block where the Scientology building stands now. Radius officials say the deal has been signed.

Multiple businesses may move into some of the vacancies in a formula that's become popular downtown and waterfront areas.

There's been a drop in leased stores in the upper State St. zone, and Sears is now vacant. Proposals being considered there include several hundred new housing units to go with a remodeled shopping site. One analyst said in ten years it could be the new "Funk Zone" for that area of Santa Barbara.

Goleta has seen growth in shopping along the Hollister and Storke corridor with the bright spot being the opening of a Target store, long anticipated by residents in the area.

Housing was also discussed. One area of growth potential was said to be students housing. Steve Golis, a Radius co-founder, said there is a turnover about every two years with students and that allows landlords to keep up with market rates.

Among the top properties sold in the last year, included a building used by Union Bank at 1486 Coast Village Road. It went for $13-million. An office building on 800 Miramonte Drive sold for $800-million. Two properties in the cannabis zone of the Carpinteria Valley sold for top dollar offers. 3376 Foothill Rd. went for $6-million and 5775 Casitas Pass Rd. sold for $3.3-million.

One of the highly anticipated sites in downtown Santa Barbara is the old Saks Off 5th building on State Street. Amazon is remodeling the site for corporate use. No other details have been announced at this time. Hiring for employees there has been underway for months.

For further information go to: https://www.radiusgroup.com/

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.