The standoff between CVS and owners of Redwood Marketplace
Redwood Marketplace has been in a process of slow decline for a decade. The question is why is this happening? The short answer is it started with CVS leaving and continues because of CVS hanging on.
When CVS announced plans to leave Redwood Marketplace and open a new store at the former Pellini Chevrolet in 2012, it took five years and a lawsuit before CVS opened downtown in 2017. Former Sebastopol City Council Member, John Eder, wrote a behind-the-scenes, five-part article on what happened on WaccoBB in 2017, called “How CVS Conned Sebastopol.” It doesn’t make CVS look good.
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The latest blows to Redwood Marketplace were Burger King and Mary’s Pizza Shack shutting down. Both left rather suddenly in the spring of this year. In October 2020, Exchange Bank moved down the street to a new building of its own. All of those spaces remain vacant.
What you see mostly today is a vast stretch of asphalt that once was an open field, suggesting the Joni Mitchell lyric: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Lucky Supermarket is unluckily still the anchor tenant. One of two large supermarket chains in Sebastopol, Lucky’s has a 2.5 rating on Yelp, the lowest of any market in town. The unclaimed Google listing for Redwood Market Place, which may be inaccurate, says that it is permanently closed.
Redwood Marketplace dates to 1985, developed by Jim Costello and built by Wright Construction, all local people. A month or so after Redwood Marketplace opened, The Sebastopol TIMES reported that business was “brisk,” and the parking lot was “a sea of cars.” (July 03, 1985). Costello sold his share of the shopping center about ten years ago to Wright Construction.
The sign for Redwood Marketplace, photographed above, is being replaced but that’s about all that’s changing there. Why is it being allowed to decline?
A source close to the ownership who spoke on condition of anonymity called Redwood Marketplace “a clusterfuck.” The problem is that when Long’s Drugs moved into Redwood Marketplace, they actually bought the building, which then became the property of CVS. Today, while vacant, the building is still owned by CVS and it is for sale.
The owners of Redwood Marketplace have tried to buy the CVS building, but the asking price is “unreasonable,” according to the source. It’s several million dollars over what they’d be willing to pay for it. It’s resulted in a standoff. The owners won’t re-invest in developing the property or even sell it while the CVS-owned building sits in the middle of it. “The incentives are misaligned,” said the source.
Several years ago, concepts for a redesign were generated by the firm, Daniel D. McDonald AIA Architects of Novato.
You can see more of these designs here.
According to this source, the City Council and others were behind a plan to create mixed-use development on the property, including a three-story building with about 60-70 housing units above retail stores. The plan stalled, largely because it depended on buying the CVS building.
The pad building, which sits alone at the north corner of the property, once housed a bank. The source said that Exchange Bank wanted to move into that building but the owners said no. It was an unfortunate decision. Eventually, Exchange Bank built its own building across the street and moved out of Redwood Marketplace. The pad building has sat vacant for about 9 years.
“It’s a hot mess,” said the source. The standoff between the owners of Redwood Marketplace and CVS is going nowhere.
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