The construction of a Target, slated to open July 2011, has caused both excitement and concerns with the idea of a new, large chain store entering San Luis Obispo.

The Irish Hills shopping center project is expected to bring $500,000 to $600,000 to San Luis Obispo, but some worry big businesses like Target will take income away from the city's smaller establishments. Manon Fisher – Mustang Daily

On Jan. 27 the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce hosted a tour of the Perfumo Creek Commons shopping center site, located on Los Osos Valley Road (LOVR) across the street from the Irish Hills shopping center, which includes stores such as Costco, Old Navy and Home Depot.

The new shopping center may also include an Olive Garden Italian Restaurant and Mac Superstore, among others. At the meeting, the Chamber of Commerce projected that 200 jobs would be created by Target and another 100 would be created by the other new stores.

The deal for the new Target, which will be 140,000 square feet, was secured in August 2010 by Lee & Associates, a local real estate firm, on behalf of Irish Hills Plaza East, LLC, according to a Lee & Associates press release. The site of the future Target is approximately 10 acres, and the whole shopping center is slated to cost $32 million.

Matt Ingwerson, a 23 year-old San Luis Obispo local, said he was excited for the impending Target.

“I love Target,” Ingwerson said. “I’m all for it.”

Ingwerson also said he thought it would be a beneficial addition to the struggling economy.

The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce estimates the shopping center is projected “to bring $500,000 to $600,000 into the local economy.

Even with the additional money for the economy, not all residents are happy. But Dennis Steinke, a Cuesta College student, said those bringing up the issue of traffic are just adverse to new things.

“There’s a lot of old people in San Luis Obispo who don’t like change,” Steinke said. “With the giant, massive shopping center, there’s already a bunch of traffic over there.”

However, with several local businesses closing down last year, including the Corner View Restaurant, Brittany Costas, a PetSmart employee, said Target would be convenient, but she also thought it would affect local businesses because they would not be able to compete with Target.

“It would be nice not to have to go to (Arroyo Grande) for Walmart,” Costas said. “But it might detract from local businesses, definitely.”

But not everyone agrees with Costas. Wendy Moore, the owner of a local bakery and deli, Breads and Moore, said she doesn’t see Target as a threat.

“I think the businesses that are going to be affected most are K-Mart and Walmart in (Arroyo Grande),” Moore said.  “I don’t really see it affecting many small businesses.”

There are also concerns over increased traffic on LOVR with the introduction of the new shopping center.

Shanti Wild said she is a lifelong local and the increase of people shopping at Target would cause traffic and take away from San Luis Obispo’s small-town feel.

“We don’t need more people shopping at a huge store causing traffic in our charming town,” Wild said.

But the small-town feel of San Luis Obispo isn’t the only concern residents have. John Leone, a business administration junior and resident in the LOVR area, said the traffic would undoubtedly increase with the Target so close to Costco, allowing people to “shop (both) in the same trip.”

“The section of LOVR from Madonna to the highway is already congested with the traffic from the Costco center, and with the new Target being built right across the street, it’s only going to get worse,” Leone said.  “Unless they develop better infrastructure or expand the road by a lane, the traffic situation is going to go from bad to worse quickly.”

In fact, the Target construction has already caused some traffic issues. The bike lane and sidewalk near the construction site has been closed down through February in order to put in a new sidewalk, according to the San Luis Obispo Public Works Department.

Timothy Bochum, the deputy director of the San Luis Obispo Public Works, said Target’s developer is “required to do traffic mitigation” in order to ease any further congestion in the area.

“They will be changing LOVR to have additional left turn pockets into Froom Ranch to get traffic to the site and they will be completing improvements up near Madonna/LOVR to install three lanes in the westbound direction to help that intersection out,” Bochum said. “Froom Ranch Way will be improved, and the signal timing changed to help traffic get to and from the site.”

Bochum also said the Target has paid a significant amount of traffic impact fees to speed up the processing time of improvements, which Bochum said has taken “quite a while to get through the Caltrans process.” Money will also be coming from San Luis Obispo and may still take time to acquire the proper funding.

“The city received about $13.8 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program to help construct the interchange improvement,” Bochum said. “Unfortunately, the construction money does not come until 2014-15 due to the state funding issues.”

Wild said the roadwork (and its delay) is a sign of the impending traffic  Target will cause.

Still, with a possible increase in the economy, job market and traffic, as well as more competition for local small businesses, the Target and Perfumo Canyon Creek Commons may turn out to be either a blessing or a curse.

Ingwerson said he had a simple solution to those who disapprove of the project.

“If you don’t like Target, don’t go there,” Ingwerson said.

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