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New shopping center

Dear Editor:
There are some residents who think that the name “Tierra Luna” is a poor choice for the proposed new shopping center. It certainly does not exploit the extensive aerospace history of Downey but we should not be surprised because the last shopping center built on that site is named Downey Landing.
I don’t think any aircraft has landed in Downey since WWII, when North American Aviation built airplanes on that site, and Downey had an airfield.
If we observe Downey Landing, it is just a parking lot surrounded on three sides by buildings. The tenants are not exactly upscale, as they include some discount stores offering clothes and tools, and also take-out food kitchens. One might also recall the long building vacancy when Longs Drug left town. Observing this center, one might speculate on the viability of an additional one.
We have previously read in this paper of the dreams of a high-end department store and steak house. Sounds wonderful, but keep in mind the clientele most likely will be from the surrounding areas of South Gate, Lynwood, Bell, Bell Gardens, Maywood, Cudahy, Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs. None of these cities have residents with large discretionary disposable incomes to spend at Mortons.
We have also heard of “big box” retailers. Again, Walmart has stores in Paramount, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and Pico Rivera. Target has stores in South Gate, Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs. Opening another store in the area will redistribute the existing sales while increasing their cost by operating an additional facility. These are highly successful companies and it is doubtful they would do that.
We do have Macy’s and Kohls, but they would be just a relocation from Stonewood with no net gain. As for Sears and JC Penney’s, these companies are losing millions of dollars nationally and not likely to spend money just to relocate.
While replacing industry with shopping centers has been a common practice in recent years, it is difficult to see it as a solution for anything. Industry creates wealth, shopping centers dissipate it. As a result of Henry Ford building autos, we got motels, gas stations, drive-ins and tourism. Observe what happened to South Gate and Lynwood when General Motors and Firestone Tire and Rubber closed their factories. Downey certainly has lost its aerospace.
The malls send money away, to be spent elsewhere. Only a small fraction of the money spend on merchandise goes to paying employees. I hear the counter argument that shopping centers create jobs. True, but keep in mind retail jobs are low paying, near minimum wage and the employees do not necessarily live in the same city, and certainly can spend that money elsewhere.
There have been some notable mall failures in recent years; the Hawthorne, La Mirada and downtown Palm Springs malls. There is also a shining success: the Citadel. It keeps expanding, adding buildings and always has a crowd. One thing it does have is a link to the past. It is on the site of the former Uniroyal Tire factory which had a unique architecture that has been retained as the facade of the center. I do not think its exterior is responsible for its success, but it does give it a marketable uniqueness.
So what I would suggest for consideration of a name is Space Shuttle Plaza. The city has a mock-up and does not seem to know what to do with it. Why not place it in the center of a plaza and design unique shuttle-themed buildings around it? Artifacts, or models of artifacts, might be available from Boeing that could be distributed in multiple locations around the site, somewhat of an outside museum. That might entice people to walk around, passing the stores, and perhaps see something they would not otherwise purchase.
The city could then hire a marketing firm to get the Plaza as a highlight stop on the tourist bus tours. This would bring some outside money passing through town, which is what is needed to support a mall, since tourists always have money to spend.
Steve Gurnik

Published: Oct. 31, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 29

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