One Mendocino County Resident’s View of DDR’s Home

Mendocino County

September 2, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

I just returned from DDR Country and want to tell you about it. DDR?  That’s Diversified Developers Realty, the multi-multi-bucks corporation that purchased the Masonite Site (just outside the city limits of Ukiah). DDR is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to circumvent our county government’s planning process to change the zoning at the Masonite Site so that they can build a Big Box Store shopping center and thus eliminate the possibility of retaining the industrial nature of the Masonite site. Industry, not retail sales, means better-paying jobs. (Locally-owned industry means that $45 out of every $100 earned goes back to the county!)

The interesting  part of my report is that there are no Big Box stores in the DDR neighborhood. No Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, Cosco etc near DDR’s enormous glistening-white buildings, or near the fancy, many-million-dollar homes close by. There are some pretty elegant, well-landscaped, themed, expensive shopping centers that run alongside  a couple of busy corridors in the DDR neighborhood. I also noticed that the elegant shopping centers are full of parked cars. And the homes in the neighborhood do not have many “For Sale” signs and certainly no “Foreclosure” signs on them. These suburban Cleveland folks in the Beachwood/Pepper Pike area do not seem to be experiencing an economic downturn like much of the rest of the country.  Nor do they want the kind of shopping center that DDR is proposing for us, not in THEIR neighborhood. Big Box stores would ruin the rural feeling of the landscape, drastically change the skyline, and  bring down their real estate values.

The other observation I made is that the DDR folks DO know what an inviting, walkable, small town looks like. Scott Wolstein, the CEO of Diversified Developers, may not have seen the inviting tree-lined streets in beautiful downtown Ukiah, but his own 36,000 square foot (!!!) palatial mega-mansion home is located near the quaint little town of Chagrin Falls. Known for its picturesque falls, the area surrounding Chagrin Falls is also famous for its horse stables, polo fields, fox hunts, and large estates. It’s a kind of faux-rural area with acres of green, manicured lawns rather than open fields. The residents of Chagrin Falls, including Mr. Wolstein,  would be outraged by the suggestion of a “Big Box” chain store in or nearby their attractive collection of small-town shops and restaurants. Somehow they did allow a Starbucks to creep into their small village, but it is so well disguised, we walked in there for lunch… by mistake.

One Comment

This is an excerpt from a colleague of mine that works in the Economic Development field in Orlando, FL. The email was in response to my asking for examples of lifestyle centers being built around the country and what their effect was on existing downtowns.

“And last but not least, there was a lifestyle center built outside of Chagrin Falls, Ohio that had devastating effects on their downtown. When it initially opened, there were 19 stores in downtown go under the first year. Their downtown had always been a very upscale, thriving shopping district that included many high end clothing boutiques. I’m sorry, but I cannot remember the name of the lifestyle center.”