Earlier this week, the Seattle Times
broke the news about reported on the return of JC Penney to downtown Seattle:
JC Penney is returning to downtown Seattle after leaving nearly 30 years ago, becoming the latest moderately priced clothing-store chain to set its sights on a growing number of shoppers who live and work in the city’s urban core.
The Times left out another important factor in JC Penney’s sight-setting: Capitol Hill.
At a forum on the Capitol Hill retail economy hosted by Capitol Hill Housing earlier this year, experts emphasized that one limiting factor in retail growth on Capitol Hill is our proximity to downtown and University Village.
Real estate developer Dana Behar explained the situation in two dimensions: size of population and trade area.
“Capitol Hill is where you went for entertainment — but also shopping,” Behar said back in May. Downtown’s growth and University Village’s success, then, means Capitol Hill’s economic foundation has grown to emphasize entertainment more and more.
“I don’t think it’s possible to have services when they’re replicated downtown,” Behar said.
So, where does that leave Capitol Hill retail? First, there’s the existing small indies and specialty boutiques that are trying to rise above the challenging bottom line set by national chains like JC Penney. As for new growth, experts at the forum agreed that if there is a new type of retail space that should be developed on the Hill it should be something in the hospitality category. A hotel leverages our existing entertainment economy but wouldn’t face the same level of competition with downtown office worker-powered retailers.
That leaves the new JC Penneys and Targets of our area to U Village and downtown — the new 2nd Ave Target is planned to open in 2012 — and Capitol Hill’s “big box” retailer economy intertwined with our downtown neighbors.
(Update: Scoop credit is up for grabs. The Daily Journal of Commerce had the story early this week.)