Sunday, January 20, 2008

Globe hits standstill

The Globe shopping complex, billed as Fremont's Epcot Center, is proving susceptible to local economic woes.

Globe officials so far have announced just four tenants for Saigon Village, the project's 24-shop initial development, completed in August.

With most of the storefronts still empty stucco shells, city officials are concerned that future phases of the project, off Stevenson Boulevard just west of Interstate 880, could be delayed.

"The retail market has softened a little bit and the developer is having a harder time finding retailers to go in," Economic Development Coordinator Angela Tsui said.

Fred Kim, who works for Globe developer John Wynn, acknowledged the economic downturn has affected leasing projections, but said completion of the $200 million project would not face significant delays.

The Globe is one of three regionalshopping centers planned for interchanges along Fremont's

I-880 corridor that city officials hope will boost sales tax revenue.

Championed by Wynn as a celebration of Fremont's diversity, the 31-acre development is to include several shopping and entertainment villages with the look and feel of different Asian and European countries.

In addition to the Vietnamese-themed Saigon Village, the project is slated to include a Pacific Village, China Village, Japan/Korea Village, India Village and Europa Village, Kim said.

Within the villages, plans call for a theater, hotel and banquet hall, as well as public plazas and many ethnic restaurants and shops.

The project is somewhat risky in the current retail market, city officials say.

Unlike Pacific Commons, near the I-880 interchange at Auto Mall Parkway, and a planned development near the interchange at Dixon Landing Road, both of which rely heavily on big box anchor tenants, The Globe is leasing many smaller spaces to independent businesses.

But the market for small retailers has weakened, Tsui said, in part because of the poor housing market and credit crunch.

A lot of individuals affected by the housing market are hesitant to start businesses because they don't have the capital, Kim said. Those who do have credit have shown strong interest, he said.

Still, Kim said the slow lease-up at Saigon Village probably has more to do with the project's vision than the ailing economy.

Globe officials have turned away several prospective tenants — both national chains and independent shops — because they didn't fit with the developer's vision for unique shops that showcase the best of each culture, Kim said.

"We're just being a little picky, that's all."

The only business now operating out of Saigon Village is East West Bank. An independent coffee shop, Vietnamese pho restaurant and Vietnamese food court will be opening soon, Kim said.

A few other tenants, including a major Asian supermarket, also are on board, but Kim wouldn't disclose their names.

Globe officials hope to have Saigon Village leased out by this summer, Kim said. Completion of the entire project, which had been scheduled for the end of the year, is now set for early 2009 due to city permitting issues.

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