A new report for the City Council indicates less interest in bringing a so-called mid-box retailer such as Fred Meyer to Anacortes than building up the number of small-scale locally-owned retailers to fill the retail void here.
The City Council's Planning Committee, with input from the broader City Council, performed an analysis to determine how to broaden retail merchandise offerings while limiting negative impacts, which may result.
The analysis by the committee, with input from Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research, recommends the city could look for 10-20 small specialty retail stores to provide merchandise equivalent to a mid-scale retail store, seek to develop a so-called mercantile with local resources, or look for a complementary brand retailer (Kohl’s was mentioned) that might be willing to offer products in line with the needs of Anacortes.
On the potential down-side, the WWU unit suggested, "it could be difficult to find a sufficient number of individuals in a smaller community who want to accept the risk and put the energy into being the owners of those businesses.” They added, that, “the city should be realistic about what a city with 16, 000 residents could really attract.”
The City Council had earlier identified and prioritized three objectives future retail development should achieve, which became the evaluation criteria used to assess retail alternatives. The first two objectives, "Increase or maintain shopper density within currently zoned commercial use areas" and "Provide additional gathering and meeting places,” ranked highest, essentially tying for most important criteria. The least important criterion was "Improve ease of access for shopping.”
The difference of opinions among City Council members regarding the prioritization of objectives is considerable. Each objective received scores from different council members for being most important and least important, which indicates council members seek different objectives from future retail development.
The Council’s Planning Committee report also looked at potential locations for new retail, making the current central business district the best choice. The report pointed to Bellingham’s Fairhaven District as a vision to achieve. The report recommended more residential and hotel development, and evaluate non-retail use on Commercial Ave.
The committee suggested larger businesses, non-retail and businesses oriented toward auto bratel might be a good fit on South Commercial. And, the committee also pointed to the north end of the MJB property along the waterfront would be a fit for small specialty retail and possibly a mercantile.
‘What the committee didn’t recommend was any retail int he currently-zoned industrial area along Highway 20 on March Point because it would pull shoppers away from Anacortes’ current retail areas.