New Stores and Old Homes

“(Novato) is essentially just guessing at its deficit since it hasn’t had a financial audit done in three years.”

The Marin Gateway Shopping Center is attracting new tenants, a sign that retail is still very much alive in a challenging environment. But it’s the type of businesses that the center is attracting that tells a larger tale.

This fall will see a unit of the supermarket chain Grocery Outlet open. Headquartered in Emeryville, the chain focuses on selling deep-discount, closeouts and overstocked products and is at the opposite end of the grocery spectrum from Marin favorite Whole Foods. Grocery Outlet has more than 400 locations. The supermarket’s parent company is a public company and traded under the ticker symbol GO. Many of its markets are independently owned.

The center, located on Donahue Street near the Sausalito/Marin City exit, is also adding Jet Physio Sports Physical Therapy and Salons by JC. Jet already established its sports rehab services at its Bridgeway location in Sausalito. Salons by JC furnishes salon services and provides salon professionals with suite rentals and also operates a franchise business. It boasts more than 200 facilities across the United States and Canada.

The trio of businesses show that the center is seen as a desirable location for companies who already have a track record of success. Other national chains that already call Marin Gateway home include Target and Starbucks at the top of the food chain, with O’Reilly Auto Parts, Ross Dress for Less and Panda Express at a different retail level.

Marin Gateway recently added a restaurant, Show de Carnes Brazilian Steakhouse as well as a store serving pets and their owners, Paw Palace Grooming.

The shopping center was opened in 1997 and is the former site of the Marin City Flea Market, an open air community market that was held on weekends. The mall has 182,000 square feet of leasable space and has a little over 4,600 square feet available.

Novato turns down sale

The City of Novato, like many municipalities, has sometimes struggled to get its ledger to balance. Cities, unlike businesses, more often than not have a limited number of revenue sources and less flexibility to make rapid change to its operational model.

Novato currently finds itself in a tight spot, with a $2.6 million budget deficit for 2023. So, when HCA Property Management Inc. came calling in June with an offer of $30 million to purchase the Marin Valley Mobile Country Club from the city, it had to seem like a stroke of luck.

But after months of closed-door negotiations between the city and Novato-based HCA, the city opted to hold onto the property located east of Highway 101, just north of the St. Vincent’s campus—much to the delight of the mobile park’s nearly 400 residents.

Novato’s decision to retain Marin Valley may look like an opportunity lost in terms of pulling the city out of the red, to me it displays the kind of gutsy and sensitive judgement not often found in city halls.

All of the residents of the mobile home park are seniors, with better than 40% either low or very low income. The city’s decision was certainly the right one for the residents.

For HCA, which owns and operates 15 mobile home parks on the West Coast, Marin Valley simply would have been a growth opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy Marin Valley remains in the city’s ownership. But Novato residents should have some concern with how its city approached the deal. My understanding is that the city didn’t have an appraisal done for the 63-acre park, so the $30 million offer was untethered to an accurate independent value.

This is not surprising as Novato’s approach to finance is unconventional. The city is essentially just guessing at its deficit since it hasn’t had a financial audit done in three years.

Your Marin Moment

Binford Road in Novato continues to be the source of great angst as the number of camped vehicles grows and the county seeks ways to relocate those living there. The county has received a grant of $1.6 million from the state to help, and already has budgeted a total of $1.3 million.

The number of folks living in their cars on Binford has grown and it’s the kind of issue that highlights the degree of discomfort over the number of people who can’t afford housing in the highly expensive Marin market, as well as how many people can slip through the cracks and become homeless.

It also amps up the crackpot factor. One local talking head has been quoted in the media as comparing Binford to a third world country, saying it is “a breeding ground for crime, squalor, filth and health hazards.”

It also seems to be producing hyperbole.

The state grant calls for Binford to return to a normal state within three years, and the county is hiring five employees to work with those living on Binford.

Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz. He is also a senior reporter for The Deal, a digital financial news outlet based in Manhattan.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply