SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— Paseo Nuevo is known for its chain retailers, local vendors, movie theater, and dining.
But what it looks like is about to change.
The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously passed a plan to start negotiations to demolish the Paseo Nuevo Mall and replace the space with 500 new housing units.
This comes after the consistent community outcry for more housing.
The city is confident the plan will positively impact everyone involved.
“So looking at the market trends of, you know, less than a third of retail downtown in more need for housing, we're hoping by redeveloping the site to increase the the housing downtown with some mixed use, of course, still having retail or parking or other uses in the facility that would create a stimulus to move folks downtown. And people will spend money where they live and work. And that would really help revitalize the downtown corridor,” said City of Santa Barbara Community Engagement Manager Bryan Latchford.
The vacancies of major retailers like Macy’s suggest that there is a trend towards consumers turning to online shopping.
But small business owners like Juan Vega believe that demolishing Paseo Nuevo will hurt business owners and consumers.
“Now that the pandemic is over people want to have that person to person interaction. I know personally for me, I like to have that connection with the person when I'm meeting them, when I'm talking to them. So my initial thing is talking to the people, getting to know them. Then they're going to go shop online afterwards because it's a tourist town where I can meet them face to face, build that rapport, and if they like the product, they're going to come back and buy online,” said Owner of Relaxation Tea Juan Vega.
Other business owners are hopeful that the housing complex will drive more traffic to their stores.
“I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for the locals, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the tourism as well,” said Owner of Santa Barbara clothing line SB Merch Alexis Flores.
With the plan is still in its infancy, there has been mixed community reaction.
I like the idea of having more housing downtown. It's kind of I grew up in Europe, so there is more. It's kind of familiar with that where you have like the downtown center area that has housing and businesses entertainment. I like it. I don't have an opinion on whether it is that space or not. Again, it's it's early, said Owner of Ton di Gelato James Haskins.
Some are worried about what the future of Paseo Nuevo will look like.
“Housing doesn't won't bring tourists either. So economically, I don't know really what it's going to do,” said tourist Ocean LeFebere, who is visiting from Canada.
“And this is such an iconic place. I would I would be said to see it gone,” said Goleta resident Olivier Mulkin.
The City Of Santa Barbara emphasizes that this new development will be a mixed use space, meaning that there will be room for both retail and housing in the picture.