Lowe's plans to come to Bayshore Boulevard
- Lowe's plans to come to Bayshore Boulevard
James Temple, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, April 3, 2009
(04-02) 16:13 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Home improvement chain Lowe's is in advanced negotiations to open a large store on San Francisco's Bayshore Boulevard, at the same controversial spot Home Depot battled for nearly a decade to land, only to walk away after securing approvals.
"They feel that, even though the market and times are difficult, San Francisco is worth going forward with," said San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents the southeastern neighborhoods that surround the project.
She and other proponents of the store highlighted the jobs it would bring to an economically impoverished area, the additional sales taxes it could provide for the city and the shopping convenience it would allow residents who now venture outside the city for home improvement products.
Lowe's didn't respond to an inquiry from The Chronicle before press time.
The Mooresville, N.C., retailer has signed a lease that is subject to a nearly six-month due diligence period, during which it retains the right to back out, Maxwell said. To ease the transaction, the company has provisionally agreed to abide by Home Depot's existing entitlements, building within the specifications of the plans and making good on the same community promises.
Training, labor program
Those include a 107,000-square-foot store, a $750,000 contribution to workforce training for neighborhood residents and a $100,000 contribution to the San Francisco's day labor program, said Michael Cohen, director of the mayor's office of economic development.
Following Home Depot's lead, Lowe's also committed to hire half of the retail employees and a quarter of construction positions from the neighborhood, and an additional quarter of retail workers and the same proportion of construction jobs from within the city, he said. The store is expected to create between 150 and 200 permanent retail positions and contribute $900,000 in annual sales and property taxes.
"In an economic climate like we're in, this could not come at a better time," said Mayor Gavin Newsom, adding his economic team marketed the site and worked closely with Lowe's after the Home Depot deal sank.
Opponents of that earlier plan had asserted it would undermine existing retailers and clog the area with traffic. Outspoken critic Rick Karp, president of Cole Hardware, which operates four potentially competing San Francisco stores, said on Thursday he has the same concerns about Lowe's.
"Lowe's is a category-killer business like Home Depot," Karp said. "Their intention would be to focus on all facets of the home improvement industry in San Francisco and drive (neighborhood stores) out of business."
The 491 Bayshore Blvd. location previously was occupied by Goodman Lumber, a 51-year-old San Francisco institution that shut down in 2000 after a long-standing family dispute. Depending on the results of the due diligence, Lowe's could begin construction as early as October and open in August 2010.
Maxwell said the store also could invigorate the nascent home improvement district in the neighborhood, which the planning department and other city agencies are working to formalize and promote. There is already a cluster of tile, carpet, cabinet and glass shops in the area.
Karp, however, noted that a key element of the home improvement district plan is ensuring the businesses are environmentally responsible, a goal he argues would be undermined by a big-box store dependent on a steady flow of automobiles.
Newsom said the store would fit within that model because the structure would be constructed according to the city's green building standards, which are among the highest in the nation. He acknowledged he wasn't generally a big box retail fan, but said this was an appropriate location for such a store and that residents and neighborhood leaders had voiced their support.
Home Depot secured the right to move forward with its earlier plans only after committing to various community programs, such as the job training. By the time the company had all the necessary approvals, however, the housing market that propels its business was in a deep freeze.
In May, the Atlanta chain announced it would no longer pursue 50 U.S. stores in its pipeline, including the San Francisco location, and would close 15 under performing stores.
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