Revitalization of our main street Visitation st.
I would like to see Visitation street get some much needed curb appeal. I would like to see no empty storefronts. We could have a nice family style resturant that serves America comfort food. Open for lunch and dinner with breakfast/brunch on Sundays. Or maybe a soda fountain ice cream stores. We could use a tea house that offers high tea for lunch and weekends. Or maybe a multipurpose shop that might have a flower, wine, cheese, dessert and gifts shop featuring our local artists. Maybe it could be a storefront and an online Internet sales company.
We could use a quality grocery store or maybe even a Traders Joe's so we don't have to get into our cars every time we need to do our weekly shopping for our households. It would be nice for our seniors to have a store they could get out and walk to. We could use a pharmacy store.
I go to Half Moon Bay, or other small towns around us, Millbrae, San Bruno, South SF. They all have a main downtown street with little shops and restaurants or services on them.
Anja Miller commented
We do need to be realistic: What can the city do in the way of incentives if private property and/or business owners do nothing themselves? The old vacant, derelict buildings are mostly privately owned.
In the past, the City tried to make the street more attractive, even adding brick crosswalks and planting new trees. Then, with Redevelopment Fund revenue, the City bought the old Five Star Cafe building, which is soon going to be replaced by a nice new library.
Any financial incentives to private businesses to come here would require serious new taxes -- would you be willing to vote for that?
One recent idea was to charge property owners a fee for keeping their buildings vacant -- but that didn't go very far. Also, any amount of "Parkside" dreaming, beyond adding lots and lots of new housing, will not solve the problem for Visitacion. Now IF all that housing is actually built, then perhaps someone will finally set up shop in that vacant, fairly new commercial space in the mixed-use building at 1 San Bruno.
Coleen Mackin commented
Forget the city incentives. LOOK at the businesses. We are all going to other communities for variety.
Credit to Mama Mia's and Star Box for trying to look quaint and inviting. Other business owners do nothing to make their places look nice or inviting.
But some restaurants WERE bustling and then quality went down so did their patronage. That's the harsh reality.
Brisbane Village could look like Crystal Springs shopping center on DeAnza and attract passersby from Bayshore. Visitation has some funky architecture but the small shops could be a bonus. Look what Redwood City and San Carlos did with old buildings.
But the "product" has to be there. Sidewalk cafes are completely feasible. Five Star Cafe site sits languishing and has outstanding outdoor seating possibilities. Hey Mitch Bull, how about tearing down the old building ridden with termites and attracting a new restaurant for the site. The 23 Club has dynamite views and could have stunning "front porch" seating with a view of the Bay and watching the sunsets. It's always lacked the money to make this a reality. Old Town Scottsdale seized the challenge. The Pink Pony historic bar/restaurant there was outdated and a dog and now has a line out the door. The 23 Club is a similar type of building. What we need is a good product and some imagination. Our city could offer incentives to attract small businesses there. We go elsewhere because you can only eat at the same places over and over. More variety!
Tony Verreos commented
It seems like there are PhDs studying just about anything we can think of, so maybe there is research to explain why some communities central shopping districts or "Main"
streets are so successful compared with other that are not as much so. Leland in Visitacion Valley is a good example. It has recently received very major public infrastructure investments, yet remains a less than enticing destination. Parking there is terrible, and metered.
You can be sure that as Anja Miller noted, the City is not fighting off retail investment.
The City has recently created a new position for Economic Development, and Mitch Bull is a great advocate for Brisbane. The issue will always be making the cash register ring. Some places in town seem to do very well. The key for the success of every business is always filling a need, and earning a profit.
Richard Kenney commented
Is there any way to modify the road into town to come directly off Bayshore at Valley rather than taking the meandering route along the park? It looks like there is greenspace along the route needed, so no buildings would have to be demolished. A more direct route into town would help with revitalization of the main street.
Anjana Richards commented
I agree with this whole heartedly. We have a lovely and walkable downtown and it's one of the biggest reasons we moved to Brisbane 5.5 years ago. There is a great opportunity to bring in restaurants that can not only be supported by our residents but also by the area businesses (many people from SSF (used to) come to Brisbane for lunch). There is also an opportunity to have more affordable housing within the town center.
Regarding possible traffic issues, I am not clear on how much that is a real issue, but I am not familiar with any traffic studies that have been done? Brisbane is unique and small, I don't think we run the risk of being hub of tourist action.
I understand that there needs to be a practical balance between what a small population can support and what businesses are attracted to, but if we had a dedicated staff to explore these issues, and think about what the right mix is, we'd be really far along. We deserve a more vibrant downtown!!
I think all of us take pride in our town and I would love to show off our downtown at it's best. It's not there - too many vacant run down store fronts. We
Ultimately, the issue comes down to traffic. Do you want traffic with the benefits of more vibrant main street or do you prevent traffic and can you then accept a non-vibrant main street? You can't have both a vibrant main street and no traffic. You'll could choose to become a 'Sausalito' of the peninsula with major weekend traffic with parking issues or remain Brisbane as it is. You need infrastructure. If you brought in that many people, we'd be forced to start using our garages and our driveways to park in versus the street. There wouldn't be room.
In order to have a vibrant main street, there has to be enough people and 'traffic' through the area to spend enough money to make it profitable. I do not believe in government/city incentives as the only support of this. It can be part of it, but it won't solve the issue. City sponsored advertising? In support of what though? If people aren't using main street and don't spend money, businesses will continue to struggle and diminish. If businesses can't attract people, then why would they come to visit. Is there a Park nearby which we could provide access too via of greater community access?
There needs to be action to correct this downward trend or it stays the same. A sleepy and low-traffic 'bedroom community' isn't so bad for some. Others want more vibrant and accessible living options within walking distance than having to drive so much.
Only very few stores can have a 'transforming' impact themselves. You have to be careful what you wish for. If you bring Trader Joe's in on the main street, you will get a lot of traffic over the ridge and by the school on San Bruno and through the Old Country Road access. If you bring them in in the 'mall' then access will be essentially only be from Old Country Road and those people will have no reason to venture further onto Main Street. However, the fact that so many people are coming to Trader Joe's would mean overflow and exploration into main street that would foster a financially supportive environment for new business to thrive within. One store would feed off the other and so on. You have to have a reason to attract people to come here to support those businesses. Right now, there really isn't anything on Main Street worth hooting about and just cleaning the facades won't change that. It'll look good, but won't change the status quo. The city could make it attractive (from a tax basis) to have them come in, but I get the feeling that fears of traffic prevent the 'guardians' from encouraging that possibility. We need a corner-stone business to come in. City government can have a strong lead role in this, they can prevent it or they can do nothing. What do Brisbane residents want? We should provide the vision for what city government aspires.
We need Good reliable Grocery and every day stuff kind of store. Farmers mkt does bring fresh produce, but it's once a week, and what if you miss it. and very few vendors, we should have more vendors in Farmer's market. For buying every little thing we have to drive to SSF, it's about time we spruce up Visitation St, bring more eatery, more stores
First those who want to start a business here. first look for population and foot traffic and Brisbane does not have that! So now we exist with travelling elsewhere to do our purchases. During WWII Brisbane was bustling and ALL storefronts were occupied. Residents supported;grocery stores/woman's shop/ restaurants/shoe store/gift shop/cleaners/movie theater/creamery/radio shop/drug store/shoe maker/beauty shops/barbers/movie theater/bars/gas stations/plant nursery/cleaners/photo shop/pool hall--YES shops AND STORES! But, many did not own cars as we had a bus that went to Bayshore,plus the Greyhound. Those that owned cars couldn't use them as there was gas rationing. So these shops/stores were supported as they were needed. After the war, Brisbane slowly changed and it IS a "bedroom community." I hope things can change and we can have businesses on Visitacion Avenue again. But first please clean it up beginning with the filthy sidewalks and property owners sweep, or the city have a city sweeper. It would also help if debris wasn't tossed out into the gutters by inconsiderate people who constantly litter..let's bring some PRIDE back to Brisbane!!
Anja Miller commented
Brisbane should not be compared with any other city in San Mateo County. After Colma we are the smallest, and our population just cannot be expected to support some kinds of businesses for adequate profit. We do have a lot of lunchtime traffic here, and a new nice coffee shop/ice cream fountain could probably survive even with no added parking. However, if people were willing to vote for more taxes to support businesses with "City incentives," it might help. In the meantime, let's stop blaming the City for everything; posting these "letters to Santa Claus" won't help.
It's encouraging to see this raised publicly because I've often wondered if our city leaders have an unofficial no-growth policy. To grow, we need to reach out and attract -- actively recruit and accommodate on a sustained basis -- people (who might not live in Brisbane) to build businesses here, and people (who might not live in Brisbane) to frequent these businesses. It seems clear that Brisbane alone cannot support all of the wonderful businesses that Juanita imagines .... it seems we can't even keep a Sunday farmer's market going. Business owners need to pay their bills and have enough to live, just like the rest of us. The situation seems so far gone (the number of empty storefronts is daunting) that the comment about incentives sounds spot on. Can property owners be motivated to reset their leasing costs with the help of incentives from the city? Are taxes an area where adjustments can be made? Are there city staff with expertise in business recruitment? Does the Chamber have an interest in contributing ideas and resources to this effort? Lastly, is city staff doing the research to learn about how other towns have approached this? It's challenging because Brisbane is really unique .... not easy to compare to other peninsula communities due to population, location, demographics, access. I applaud the city for opening up this topic .... I have also often wondered whether Brisbane residents themselves favor no-growth, so whether we do or don't, here is an opportunity to tell our leaders.
I would like to see our City encourage and nurture businesses on Visitation. I suppose that the depression era feeling of our downtown has a certain character, but it is looking run down and just plain depressed. I would like to see Midtown Market replaced with a better quality grocery store. I would like to see a library/community center combination that becomes the cultural hub of our town. The 23 Club is for sale, and it is a huge opportunity for the City to consolidate properties and create a real town center. Let's put some energy and resources into our main street, and make it useful and a source of pride.
I completely agree. It would be great to have a real grocery store and pharmacy in town. If we had incentives to attract businesses on the street and the little mall, people working in town would shop and eat in town at lunch. Can't the city official offer some incentives?