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Country Club Plaza needs to serve the Sacramento foot traffic in the area

Is the new owner of Country Club Plaza (mall) aware of the needs of the large senior citizen community of pedestrians in the neighborhood, numerous nondrivers, who wish there were more tenants to serve the needs of the older adult population? For example, if you look at other shopping centers, seniors are complaining it's a 45 or more minute bus trip, plus an hour between buses (on the number 25 bus route) to visit Sprouts in Citrus Heights from Marconi and Watt Avenues to buy some organic produce that's not left on the shelf so long it's too old to taste good. The new owner of the Country Club Plaza is looking for new tenants.

Country Club Plaza in Sacramento: What does the future hold?
Anne Hart, photography. Midtown mural on store outdoor wall, Sacramento, 2013.

Does the owner know that just across the street and down the block are senior citizens apartment complexes where older adults eagerly need shopping for items such as organic foods, and other necessities of living nearby so they don't have to take a bus to shop for healthier foods, sundries, and hygiene products? You may wish to check out the July 4, 2014 Sacramento Bee article by Quinn Western, "New owner of Sacramento’s Country Club Plaza on the hunt for tenants."

The seniors are disappointed that it may take up to three years before the mall is changed the way the owners would like. And the owners haven't made major plans for reconstruction yet, according to the July 4, 2014 Sacramento Bee article.

EDM Realty Corp. of San Francisco bought the mall at Watt and El Camino avenues last month for a reported $20 million

Erwin Mieger, head of the corporation, said his company plans to do some necessary maintenance on the parking lot and try to fill up the mall with new tenants that serve the surrounding neighborhood rather than the dress and garment shops that have been its traditional tenants. The problem is the middle class neighborhood and foot traffic appears to be sliding into shopping areas serving people who want cheaper prices. For example, stores frequented by the seniors of the neighborhood included buying clothing at Ross, household objects at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which have moved to the Town and Country shopping center at Marconi and Fulton, two miles away.

Since there are no sidewalks to walk from Marconi and Watt to Marconi and Fulton Avenues, you see seniors pushing their utility carts now and then along the dusty, wet curb between Watt Avenue and Fulton Avenue, along Marconi, with sometimes the dust of mowers and leaf blowers spraying dust in their faces as they make their way along the curb to the new shopping center to get to the food at Trader Joe's or Bed, Bath and Beyond. Even the clothing store with reasonable prices, Ross has relocated to Town and Country, the only store that featured under ten dollar polyester one-size fits all caftans, so popular with senior women to be worn under form-fitting blouses or jackets as maxi-skirts that often held a price tag of $9.99 for these silken-looking caftans.

The senior women often wore them under all types of tops from long-sleeved sweat shirts to suit jackets and dressy blouses, and the caftans were so cool and light to wear in the summer. But now, who can walk a mile along the curb as the heavy traffic of Marconi Avenue whizzes by a few inches from someone's utility cart or wheelchair, to reach the more upscale Town and Country shopping area that's also a bus ride away, if the person chooses to pay several dollars for a trip and back with the bus when it's a heavy task with packages or utility cart to get on a sometimes crowded bus to go two stops, since there's no sidewalk connecting Watt and Marconi with Fulton and Marconi Avenues?

The company is compiling a list of logical occupants such as supermarkets, hardware stores and drugstores. But EDM hasn’t released any names, and it could be years before the biggest changes are seen.

Bringing the Country Club mall make can take up to three years, at least. If the owner revitalizes the center, which community will it serve, the pedesterian seniors, the young mothers pushing strollers, the low-income apartment residents, the older home owners who have been living in the neighborhood since the 1950s, or the strolling bands of youths who hang out by the vacant stores at the Town and Country shopping center after school or in the afternoons, doing little other than sitting around the vacant stores on the outside of the mall?

If the center is going to be revitalized, who will be served first in the community? And will it go the way of the stores around it, serving the lower-income neighbors with stores such as Goodwill, the Dollar Store, and Wal-Mart? Or serve the largely senior home owners who still would love to see a permanent indoor farmers' market type supermarket similar to Sprouts, Whole Foods Market, or the Natural Food Coop, and stores such as Lowe's or Costco, so they don't have to ride up to an hour or more on busses to reach stores such as those in more distant Citrus heights or downtown?

For example, people who want to get to an organic food market have to wait for the number 80 bus to change to the number 22 bus which comes once an hour and not on weekends to take them to the Whole Foods Market or to buy a bus pass at BelAir on Eastern and Arden. Not everyone in the neighborhood can drive. You have this large community of older adults, mostly homeowners who are pedestrians who walk or ride the bus to shop.

Revitalizing the center is important to serve the entire community

Country Club Plaza, one of the region’s oldest malls, has been losing tenants for years, most recently to the revamped Town & Country. Why can't the Arden Arcade area have a mall similar to Roseville's Galleria that's accessible easily by bus so nondrivers such as seniors and those with various disabilities can walk to such a mall or get their with public transportation?

If there's room only for two major malls to be successful in the general Sacramento County area, Galleria at Roseville and Arden Fair mall, and that Country Club Plaza – one of the region’s oldest malls, what changes need to be made to become a hybrid between a mall and maybe a lifestyle center with groceries and restaurants?

The idea is to cater to the community without completely destroying the needs of the many homeowners in the area. The shopping center has to be changed, but to attract which type of customer--the older homeowner, the young but very low income apartment-dwelling family with small children, the average resident, or the wealthier person living behind some of the gated neighborhoods on one side of Marconi or the apartment dwellers with much lower incomes living on the other side of Marconi Avenue? One big problem is the expensive to join golf club on Marconi Avenue that the lower-income residents wish were a private park that everyone in the area could enjoy, similar to Carmichael Park, with family and senior events such as a senior center or classrooms for lifelong learning.

The plaza was unofficially on the market for two years and was continually losing tenants. One big issue is competition from online retailers, but Country Club Plaza area has a large population nearby. The question is anybody overlooking the many senior citizen apartment complexes in the neighborhood that are not being served by nearby shopping areas? Country club shopping center is across the street from Wal-mart. But a lot of people don't like the long lines at the cash registers, especially when customers start ordering older customers to get to the lines just for people with a few items, instead of realizing those lines may be closed, and that's why the person with one item waiting behind the person with many items is on that line.

Apparently, when the customer with many items sees the customer standing with one item, instead of saying, go ahead of me, you have only one item and I have many items, the person's guilt quickly turns to anger as the person with many items orders the person in back of him or her to go to a line that's open for people with less than a certain number of items. The person doesn't want to move because that line is longer or is closed, and anger breaks loose from the condition that one customer is ordering another customer to get off that line. That's seen now and then at Wal-mart. Such behavior is not seen in more expensive stores where customers appear to be less interested in telling another customer what to do, not knowing whether a line is closed or not when it comes to customers with fewer items.

If you ask seniors what complaints they have about retail stores, one frequent answer may be how customers treat other customers in the checkout line. As far as the Country Club mall, a lifestyle center would probably do well, but it’s all about putting the right tenants in the stores to serve everyone in the community, not only the young lower-income apartment dwellers, but also the older homeowners on the side streets. Mieger's firm has previously owned other Sacramento shopping centers, including what is now known as Marketplace at Birdcage. EDM primarily owns office, retail and other properties in the Bay Area, according to the Sacramento Bee article. You also may wish to see another article on the Country Club Plaza, "Country Club Plaza is sold; new owner plans ‘repositioning’ of troubled mall."

Here's a tip: The Country Club Plaza might plan a weekly noon concert for the community, especially the seniors and the lunch-hour crowd in the area, similar to the Wednesday at noon classical and world music concerts at Westminster Presbyterian Church downtown near 13th Street. What the many seniors living in that neighborhood love is quiet, classical or world music at noon. Numerous seniors don't attend night events if they no longer drive. And the Saturday morning farmers market in the parking lot of Macy's all year 'round brings a lot of people shopping. But it closes at noon.

Can the shopping center serve all the needs of this community's residents?

What seniors and others would love to see is an indoor farmers market food store where people could shop for all types of fresh produce, especially organic fruit and vegetables. Such a lifestyle center could be a place where one comes to relax, enjoy and shop with less stress, without having to ride the bus an hour to get to a sanctuary of peace and relaxation while shopping. What helps are fountains, food, hardware, sundries, outdoor lunch eateries, and neighborhood places as well as big stores such as Costco or Loewe's so customers won't have to ride up to an hour in busses to get to stores such as these.

Meeting and conference rooms for events would be a nice addition for club meetings or lifelong learning classes. The neighborhood shopping areas can be a place in which people can enjoy walking around. Neighbors are tired of seeing more thrift shops and stores where everything costs a dollar or less. Those stores are already established. How about a breath of serenity instead of a sea of steady, heavy traffic all around your residences? For example, the neighborhood has plenty of preschools, but no senior center. To get to the nearest senior center with lifelong learning activities, the person has to take a long bus ride.

Except for various house of worship-related activities, there's just nothing regarding daytime events or lifelong learning, lectures, and various clubs within walking distance of El Camino and Watt to Marconi and Watt Avenues, except for the morning or evening library clubs, usually too early for seniors to get to or too late in the evening for seniors to walk to and still feel it's safe walking on the streets. Noontime to 3:00 p.m. are the best times for events for older adult pedestrians. For mothers with small children, the morning is best, and the library branches have such activities. For teenagers the late afternoons take care of after-school activities, and for working adults with cars, the after dinner hours, as is shown by the numerous cooking classes held in midtown Sacramento. But what's happening daytime in Arden Arcade not at the Town and Country mall?

As far as the area on Watt Avenue between El Camino and Marconi Avenues, there just has to be more upcoming that one can look at than the Goodwill thrift shop, the new Dollar Store, or Wal-Mart to serve the needs of the foot traffic residents. The view from Country Club Plaza is the heavy traffic on El Camino Avenue. It would be great to see that traffic view blocked by lots of green plants and fountains, and more outdoor tables for well, serenity, shopping, and enjoyment, perhaps by outdoor musicians at noon, as you see so often in the outdoor eating areas and spaces where people can sit in Berkeley. Sure, the Sacramento summer heat is not Berkeley, but at least there can be greenery, more trees, bubbling fountains, and soothing live music, perhaps from volunteer music students, blocking out that constant stream of heavy traffic along El Camino that never seems to let up in the daylight hours.

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