After months of discussion, changes will finally get under way at the East Cliff Village Shopping Center this month. What will these changes look like, and did any of the community input from earlier meetings play into the plans?
The East Cliff Village Shopping Center was once a vibrant shopping center that met a broad set of needs in the Live Oak community. With the increase in development on 41st Avenue in Capitola, the center has gone through a long period of decline. In conversations with hundreds of community members, there has been a constant refrain asking why the center has not been redeveloped. Over the years, plans have been introduced and then dropped by developers. After recent community meetings, there are now some changes under way that reflect input from community members.
In two meetings in April and June, more than 250 people came to the Simpkins Family Swim Center to share their thoughts on what the East Cliff Village Shopping Center could look like. Oftentimes when a development project is being considered, a specific proposal is presented to the community and people express either support or opposition. This time, working in collaboration with the developer, we decided to try a new approach. At our first meeting we invited community members to talk about what they would like to see at the site and what kinds of development would be acceptable.
Presentations were made by the developer and by an economist working for the county on the Transit Corridors Plan. The economist talked about what his research shows about the kinds of businesses that are needed in the area and those less likely to be successful. He said smaller format grocery stores, food service uses and complementary retail stores could be economically feasible. He also talked about how mixing land uses (e.g., adding office and/or housing) can help improve the overall economic viability of neighborhood-serving retail centers, and noted that the new generation of neighborhood shopping centers are less auto-oriented and tend to be better integrated into the existing urban fabric.
Community members were asked what characteristics they would like to see in the center, their thoughts about the placement of buildings, and the height and scale of existing and potential future buildings on the property. In addition, they were asked for their thoughts about establishing residential, office and/or medical uses at the center, whether there are specific commercial or service uses that people would patronize, and if there are events that people would like to see there.
There was a lot of agreement on a mix of uses, possible second stories as long as they are set back from East Cliff Drive, and support for a medical clinic. Nearly every group expressed interest in creating a community space such as a plaza for outdoor seating—for the farmers’ market, and possibly for movie nights or a bandstand. Many also spoke about incorporating housing.
A second meeting followed where development ideas were presented with examples of what a revitalized shopping center could look like. Key elements articulated by the community from the first meeting were reflected in what the developer brought back to the community. Overall, people were excited about how a revitalized shopping center would enhance the neighborhood.
Soon after the second meeting, a lease was signed for a 9,000-square-foot family health clinic, run by the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center. The addition of a family health clinic has been identified by the community and the Health Improvement Partnership as a priority in Live Oak. The owner is also looking for grocery tenants and is considering the construction of an office/retail building on a portion of the site.