SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — San Francisco’s Union Square has faced a number of problems over the years, from traffic, parking, homeless, and construction.
But now – like the rest of the city – it’s also fallen victim to the squeeze of skyrocketing rents.
Union Square has long been known as the gold coast of shopping – but even $900 shoes – and $25,000 hand bags can’t make the rent there anymore.
“It’s gotten very extreme,” Ken Peterson with Arthur Beren Shoes said.
In the past two years, Arthur Beren Shoes saw its rent jump more than 40 percent to over $1 million a year.
“Sad to say the big corporations can afford these higher rents. We independents and family owned stores don’t have that luxury,” Peterson said.
And, it’s not just the small stores. Karin Flood of the Union Square Business District estimates up to 20 stores, including such big names as Prada, Faconnable, and Saks men’s – have moved out or consolidated – leaving a score of empty store fronts in their wake.
“We’re seeing changes happening a lot faster with business going out but also with new businesses going in,” Flood said.
Longtime local favorite Britex Fabric may soon be making way for more profitable office space.
“That shows demand. The rents wouldn’t go down if there wasn’t demand,” Jim Lazarus with the city’s Chamber of Commerce said.
There is talk of the Nike super store moving.
Even the Macys men’s building has become too valuable to just sell clothes.
“You could see more offices and residential. Especially on the upper floors. Property owners are looking to get the highest rents they can,” Flood said.
“Levis moved to Market. Apple tore down Levi’s and put a new Apple store up. That shows demand. The rents would go down if there wasn’t demand,” Lazarus said.
So, is Union Square in the middle of gentrification?
“You know, I hope not. That is always a challenge. You don’t want to lose the character of Union Square and the old time businesses,” Lazarus said.