Skip to Content

Two closed department stores may be the key to new downtown Santa Barbara housing

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The future of downtown housing may be staring right at the city of Santa Barbara in plain sight.

The closed Macy's on the corner of Ortega and State Street and the closed Nordstrom on the corner of Canon Perdido and Chapala Street are available with multiple floors of empty space.

Macy's closed in 2017 and the Nordstrom closed in June of 2020.

Analysts have suggested releasing for retail, creating a mixed use space, converting to entertainment, or turning it into anything from luxury to workforce housing.

A principal with the Radius Group, Gene Deering, spoke at an economic forecast this week and said if they are leased now to a long term tenant, such as a family entertainment center, that would take the housing opportunity away. "This window may close once tenants go into that property or something changes. I am very hopeful, it will be a slow process but we need to figure out a way to win with Macy's and Nordstrom."

He urged city leaders and top developers to look carefully at these sites. "We need to learn how to win with Macy's and Nordstrom," said Deering. "Hopefully find a way to take those buildings down and build the residential we need."

There were changes in the works for the first floor of Macy's but that plan failed.

The Aloha Roller Rink pulled out after getting far enough along to put in colorful counters and designs and even take applications for employment.  The reason was unknown.

Across the street the owner of the Antique Alley, Alan Howard, has watched Macy's sit vacant since 2017 except for a holiday pop up event.

"I believe Macy's and Nordstrom are very viable for housing to revitalize all of the businesses downtown that rely on people going out for lunch and shopping, your local mom and pop grocery stores and mom and pop convenience stores."

He says downtown would take on a vibrant new feel.

"You have that people are owning the town  in the sense that they feel committed to the downtown and they want to see it nice, " said Howard.

The Nordstrom site  has been gutted.   Turning it into offices did not get a favorable review.

Deering said, "this is hard to repurpose for other types of uses other than tech office or retail and they are just not there."

City leaders and developers were urged to act on this opportunity now.

"If we invested in that now, I think we are going to be better off in our downtown because these are such big pieces and keys to our downtown," said Deering.

For more from John, follow him on Twitter below:

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
Radius Group
Santa Barbara

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content